A Profusion of Minis

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on June 02, 2008

For a product category that has yet to prove that it has a real market, there sure are a lot of low-cost mini-PCs being announced. With the Computex show in Taiwan as the spur, it seems that nearly every computer manufacturer has now announced a sub-$500 laptop with a sub-10-in. display, and those that haven’t soon will.

eeepc.jpg
In recent days, Via, whose C7 processor powers many of the minis, announced a reference platform called the OpenBook. Acer announced its long-expected Aspire one. And Asus, whose Eee PC got the category rolling, announced an update based on Intel’s new Atom processor. UPDATE 6/3 MSI also introduced its Atom-based Wind.

Maybe it's all a plot to keep Windows XP alive. To prevent a mass defection of these products to Linux, Microsoft has said it will continue to make XP available after its June 30 retail cutoff date, to these low-cost, low-power systems that simply don;t have the horsepower to run the newer operating system well.

But it's not all about Vista, Perhaps the oddest recent announcement came from nVIDIA, which is promoting its new TEGRA system-on-a-chip as a solution for mini-notebooks. The oddity is that TEGRA is built around an ARM processor (and, of course, an nVIDIA graphics processing unit) as a solution for mini-notes. The trouble is that neither Windows XP nor any consumer-friendly Linux distributions run on ARM. So if nVIDIA has its way, we'll have to get ready for the Windows Mobile mini-note.

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Reader Comments

Rolf Bork

June 3, 2008 03:06 AM

"The trouble is that neither Windows XP nor any consumer-friendly Linux distributions run on ARM"....might be there is a whole new world - web applications - hidden behind the conventional wisdom barrier that implies that the future of mobile digital devices is following the "rules of desk top PCs".
Who wants the complexity of this past history in a world where mobile digital devices are essential DIGITAL APPLIANCES for the world to use WEB BASED SERVICES?
Just think about ehealth services and it will be obvious that "desk top PC framework" is not the path for broad customer acceptance and satisfaction. Now take the real targets - billions of non-users of current PCs - and one might conclude a web browser (to run future Google frameworks) is all it takes.
Rolf Bork, BOD mediaf.com & sensitivetech.com

NickF

June 3, 2008 03:42 AM

The Nokia Maemo Linux platform (which runs the Nokia N770, N800, N810) is designed to run on ARM processors, and there is plenty of software available for it.

Rich

June 3, 2008 04:35 PM

Stephen,

I'd like to know two things: (1) how did Microsoft mess up so badly on Vista, (2) having made that error, why are they now making a second one by saying they'll discontinue sales of XP soon?

Rich

MisterMeister

June 3, 2008 08:05 PM

Debian has a port for Arm plus you forgot Trolltech with QT4 and Qtopia development for the Arm platform.

Nvidia could easily go the same route Nokia did with the Mameo platform without the threat of a single source vendor, IE Microsoft, dictating terms.

Steve Wildstrom

June 3, 2008 08:47 PM

@MisterMeister--I wasn't aware of the Debian port because it's not yet part of the standard Debian distro. Certainly, Linux is available for ARM. But it is generally intended for embedded-type application and the UI is left up to the implementer, an unsatisfactory arrangement, in general, for mini notes.

maree

June 5, 2008 08:44 AM

cant the ipod and eeepc run on arm?

Steve Wildstrom

June 5, 2008 11:53 AM

@Maree--Lots of things run on ARM, including nearly all wireless phones, smart and otherwise, TiVos, cars and virtually everything else using embedded processors. The problem is that laptop software is written for x86 processors not ARM.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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