Idle PCs Get Put To Work

United Devices Inc., which pools the power of idle computers, receives $18 million in venture capital.
Few things excite David Wilson as much as an idle computer. "It makes me salivate," he says.

Maybe $18.2 million in venture capital, from investors including GE Equity and Intel Capital, comes close. Wilson, VP of marketing and business development at United Devices Inc., will help put that money to use as the company, which pools the power of idle computers, looks to expand the concept beyond research to corporate uses in life sciences, engineering, financial services, and geosciences.

The Austin, Texas, company is best known for helping conduct research on cancer-fighting proteins along with Intel, Oxford University, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, and 900,000 volunteered PCs. Compared with that, Wilson says it should be easier to link computers in a corporate network, where the processors, operating systems, and Internet connections are more uniform.

Most large companies underestimate the value of idle PCs. Wilson says, "Even when you're taking phone calls, or pausing between keystrokes, there's nothing happening on the computer; the computer is sitting there and saying 'Feed me something, feed me something.'"