Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thin client low cost Linux desktop notebook computer

If the Zonbu desktop, Zonbu notebook and ASUS Eee PC become popular, I expect every desktop and laptop maker (and some makers of calculators and mobile phones) will be scrambling to make a low cost, low cost, low power Linux computer. These untis will have as a minimum a 1.5GHz, VIA C7-M Intel-compatible low energy processor (or similar), 512MB RAM, 4 GB Flash drive (or a small hard disk), 3 USB ports, Ethernet: 10/100 Mbps, Wifi, Linux, OpenOffice.org, Firefox and other open source software (with updates via the Internet).

The ASUS Eee PC is too small for regular use and the Zonbu notebook is a bit big. The Zonbu desktop unit is a bit over engineered. One option would be to use a case suitable for a 12 inch widescreen notebook computer and then provide different options. The case would be about the size of an A4 sheet of paper and thus suitable for carrying in school bags and briefcases. This is also about the smallest size a comfortable keyboard for adult use can be fitted in.

To lower the cost of the unit it could be made with a smaller 10 inch wide screen display. Low cost units of this size are mass produced for DVD players. The screens only have a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, which is low by high performance notebook standards, but is adequate and will also lower the power requirements.

To further lower the cost the unit could use NiMh batteries in place of Lithium Iron ones. These will be larger and heavier, but less expensive.

To lower the cost of developing a desktop version, the screen, keyboard and battery would be omitted from the notebook. This ould make a unit shitable for standing an LCD display on on a desktop.

Three possible options would be:
  1. Desktop: No battery, keyboard or LCD screen installed (hinged case sealed shut). This unit would cost about US$350 retail and be used as a desktop computer.
  2. Low Cost Notebook: 10 inch 800 x 480 pixel screen (as used in DVD players), NiMh batteries. This would cost about US$450.
  3. Performance Laptop: 12 inch display and Lithium Ion batteries. This would cost about US$550.
There could be an optional DVD bay. In place of a SD card slot there would be would be space for an internal USB device. This could be used to expand the memory with one of the USB Flash Drives which are commonly available.

The USB bay could also be used for a wireless modem. This could be user installed or bundled with the notebook (or desktop) computer. This could be sold with a monthly service by an ISP.

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