The $100 PC

Came across this interesting idea about creating a “$100 PC” – the basic idea is to store your entire environment on a thumbdrive and to log on to virtual terminals scattered around places like McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, etc. I’m not sure if I’d call that a PC but it’s definitely a cool idea (Of course, it all depends on the cost of the dummy terminal – I don’t see how it would cost $60-70 since any such device would need at least a display unit, CPU, RAM and motherboard plus it would need to be networked to really make sense). One suggestion – if souped-up TV sets, cable boxes, games units, those information kiosks, etc can be made compatible with these devices, then the initial base of virtual PC “docking stations” would get a good start.

An additional advantage is that this concept is particularly friendly to free OS-es since not only are these cheaper (when talking about a $100 PC, the savings derived from using a free OS in terms of percentage of total cost is significant). In addition, it would be inherently difficult to enforce licensing or copy-protection rights with any thumb drive based PC – hence any propriety OS release for this scheme is likely to be clunky and unfriendly…

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1 Comment »

  1. ctrambler said

    I am known to call it a “Storage Device” rather than a PC. My biggest problem is the dependency on virtual terminals, there is no way to do any computing. Hence, not a PC.

    Technically, a big problem is the availability of virtual terminals.

    As for business plan, remember that the sub $100 PC is aimed at bring computers to poor and underprivillege segment of the society. It has to be assumed that they will have problems paying for access to virtual terminals. Relying on governments or charity to provide dummy terminals simply increases the complexity of the solution.

    Other serious technical problems are (1)the compatibility between the virtual terminal’s OS and that of the thumbdrive; (2)Users probably have to spend time relearning software on different terminals: One running MSOffice, another OpenOffice.org, and (3)Power supply to the virtual terminals. Remember that electric supply can be a luxury for the target market.

    All these would not be there if we have a self-contained unit, as per the original proposal by MIT for sub $100 PC.

    Moreover, I cannot see McDonald, Starbuck’s etc openning a store in the target market of sub $100 PC, i.e., poor and under-developed areas. To use the thumbdrive in these places,one have to pay for access directly or in a roundabout way (buying a Roti Canai from McCanai or SoyaBean Milk from SoyaBuck)

    Let’s not forget that Caroll’s proposal is suspiciously an attempt to squeeze (for fee) proprietory operating system into the sub $100 PC space. I must say it is an ingenious way to side-step the proprietary software cost problem by pushing it away from the owner to virtual termiinal providers. Again, the inability of the thumbdrive to provide computing for its user is the biggest problem that he did not address. The virtual termiinal solution is simply a bad “work-around”

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