Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ultra cheap pc from, where else China

Slashdot links to this techfreep article about a $125 PC planned by a company called 'ZhongKe Menglan Electronics Technology Co.' in China. At first look the specifications of this PC look pretty good for the money. Infact (and I am a bit embarassed here) it's almost as good as my old, still very much in use PC.
RAM - 256MB (same as mine)
Hard Drive - 40-60 GB (more than mine)
CPU - Godson-2 800Mhz-1Ghz (mine is a Pentium4 2Ghz)
The CPU ofcourse is the issue in ways more than one. There have been some concerns that it's a rip off of a MIPS chip from MIPS Technologies.
"However, the chip’s architecture has gotten attention around the industry for its similarities to the MIPS chip from MIPS Technologies Inc. According to market research group In-Stat, the Godson-2 is about 95-percent compatible with the MIPS R10000, which was introduced in 1995. BLX claims that similarities between the Godson and MIPS are strictly coincidental."

Well, we had heard similar accusations when Huawei and ZTE initially got into the Telecom infrastructure market. I don't see anyone talking about that anymore. So lets see how the CPU part of this saga plays out.

Anyway, back to the PC. Initially it will be priced at $160-$170 and used in schools and government offices in China. It will hit the $125 price tag if the initial rollout goes well and it goes into mass production. The PC will come preloaded with Linux and the free goodies that come with Linux. I wonder if a person who has never used a PC before will find Linux user friendly. My theory is that a lot of 'user-unfriendliness' of Linux can be attributed to our collective addiction to Windows, a problem which a completely new user wont have. But that's just idle speculation. I can't prove anything.

On similar lines I came across some old articles from DQIndia about the Rs10,000(~$220) PC that are being marketed by Xenitis India. The article in June 2005 makes it sound very promising.

"A quick comparison with some of the branded competitors brings out the magnitude of Xenitis' achievement. For an under 10K price tag, Xenitis provides a PC fuelled by a Cyrix 1 GHz chip, with 128 MB RAM; a 30 GB hard disk drive; a 52x CD drive, a floppy drive and a 15 inch color monitor. The software is Red Hat's Enterprise 3 professional version of Linux, which comes on 9 CDs that include the Open Office suite, database, e-mail tools and a browser."

But in another article a few months later it documents the practical problems involved in actually buying such a PC. A good read if you need convincing that just technically reducing the cost of something is not enough. The eco system (suppliers, distributors) to make it available also needs to be in place.

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