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Power Line Networking Bowed By NComputing

NComputing will debut the newest edition to its consumer product line this week at International CES, a simplified powerline-based home network.

The NComputing’s PC Expansion P100 kit uses the HomePlug 1.0 specification to create a network built around a single computer, but capable of supporting up to 10 dummy terminals comprised of a keyboard and monitor. These dummy terminals share the main computer’s processing power using NComputing System On Chip (SOC) technology and its terminal server software, which turns the host PC into a server, allowing it to operate several terminals, said Bob Block, NComputing’s sales director.

The kit will ship during the second quarter with a $199 suggested retail price. It is comprised of a router-like appliance and uses a home’s powerlines to pass data from terminal to terminal. The network connection is made between the computer’s connection to the powerline and the P100 box’s outlet. The box contains connections for the monitor, keyboard and speakers. It is compatible with the various Windows operating systems and can be used with a television to share programming over the network.

The company is positioning the product as an inexpensive alternative to owning several computers and to the attendant difficulties many consumers have putting together an Ethernet or wireless home network.

Block said the host computer processing and Internet access ability are not hindered when it is shared along the network. However, the P100 does have problems when processor intensive games are played, he said. The P100 can be used to network CE devices, as well. An HDTV or stereo can be connected, but the system tends to bog down when playing HD content, so Block advised that regular programming would be better to watch.

The P100 joins a similar NComputing device, the OSL 100, that is now selling at Best Buy for $199. Instead of using a home’s electrical grid the OSL 100 is Ethernet-based and requires cable to be run to the dummy terminals. NComputing will release an updated version of the OSL 100 called the L200 early in the second quarter. It is basically the same, but adds four USB ports, a red chassis and a microphone port. It will carry the same suggested retail price.