It Doesn’t Get Much Smaller Than This, But It Could Be Cheaper

I really believe there is a large place in the market for small cheap computers, much larger than a niche. There’s just no need for wasted material in personal computing.

We are getting close to “perfection” with thin clients and all-in-one computers but this gadget must be “it”. Using only USB power, the thing can run a modern distro like Ubuntu/Linux or Android/Linux and can be used with any PC that can boot a USB drive. It’s still pricey for the material in it. I expect eventually such gadgets will sell for a bit more than a USB drive costs. The HDMI port, card reader, electronics and ARM CPU do cost something but the price should be ~$100 to really hit the market hard. Still, this thing will sell and widely.

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25 Responses to It Doesn’t Get Much Smaller Than This, But It Could Be Cheaper

  1. Dr Loser says:

    And the microSD would be, what?

    A spinning disk comprised of ferrous oxide with a couple of heads?

    Or, *cough* *cough* solid state memory?

    The fact that it is detachable is utterly irrelevant (although I’m sure there’s going to be an after-market in microSD replication).

    One input, one output. Requires a TV with an HDMI interface. No other controls unless you want to spend a further $10 on a USB block controller and a further $10 on a USB keyboard and a further $40 on an external hard drive and a further and a further and a further…

    I tell you what, genius. I’ll front the $200 once this thing is in production. I’ll send it to you, and you can go door to door and try and sell it for $75 to anybody you care to choose.

    It’s not going to happen, is it?

    Although my original idea of killing bankers by dropping it off the Empire State Building was, at least, credible.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Dr Loser
    “Right up to the point where the solid-state memory burns out, incidentally, and I don’t have the figures for that but I believe it tends currently to be 18 months, and that’s when you are depending on lots of other memory units that are not solid state.”
    It has no fixed solid-state memory internally other than its bios.

    OS is stored on the memory card. Ie the microSD. So change full configuration of it change microSD card. The unit of course is going to be provided with a MicroSD card as part of package. Also the device is 1 gb ram so removing for a lot of cases requiring swap space or temp files on disk.

    Some of the items that a general purpose are under 100 dollars Dr Loser.

    “Isnt the raspberry pi the same thing but less powered and way cheaper?” Yes its way cheeper and can do more. More general purpose targeted.

    Cotton Candy is a presentation targeted tool. Configuration clearly shows this.

    Tough small is ideal for this particular market. Think you need a backup to your laptop for a presentation just in case you laptop fails.

    If you walk out room and leave something like the cotton candy behind there is a good chance it will go unnoticed compared to a laptop or a phone.

    Key for presentation tool is rapid reconfiguration. Pull memory card insert next so changing the devices configuration completely.

    This tool is far more suitable for presentation work than laptop phone or tablet that are configured for general usage. Note phone using bluetooth can be remote to the cotton candy same with other bluetooth based remote hardware.

  3. Dr Loser says:

    “Think about it a cotton candy is fully solid state. So drop it most likely live.”

    I don’t often find myself in the position of replying to Oiaohm, mostly because I’m usually too talentless to be able to parse what he’s trying to say, but this one is actually worth discussing.

    The cotton candy has one input and one output. Clearly it isn’t general purpose in any way, despite being priced (as noted above) a mere $50 below something that is.

    Presumably, therefore, its Unique Selling Point is that you can carry it around, and even drop it from a great height, and it will always work.

    (Right up to the point where the solid-state memory burns out, incidentally, and I don’t have the figures for that but I believe it tends currently to be 18 months, and that’s when you are depending on lots of other memory units that are not solid state.)

    Let’s think about that, shall we? And we’ll ignore pocket lint while we’re at it.

    Imagine a prototypical Ferrari user. In my mind, he’s tanned, has immaculate hair, banks at Coutts, has an unfeasibly large number of gleaming white teeth, and probably does Gucci adverts just for fun. The last one I saw was a podgy bald guy with a trophy blonde who probably made his money ripping off the stock-market. For all I know, the reality is that most Ferrari drivers are middle-aged Hausfraus. But, whatever, you can construct a narrative around a Ferrari.

    What sort of narrative can you construct around a cotton candy? A device whose principal benefit is that you can drop it off the Empire State Building and, although it will hopefully kill a passing banker, it will still survive? And you’ll still be able to plug it in to the back of your TV, and it will still do nothing at all?

    Like I say, I’m a geek. I would truly love one of these. But really, I cannot see a future for it.

  4. oldman says:

    Lets deal with reality Pog:

    This is a prototype. It is not in production and it remains to be seen whether it will ever be produced.
    It remains at this point one of the many prototypes that get turned out.

    Event were it to be producted, As presented here. The average computer user is not going to use this thing. It is not a viable form factor for add on use to the kind of existing equipment that most companies have.

    In short , Whether you or Mr. HAM like it or not, the only use that is clear as an platforms for developers of android code to be able to run their code as full speed.

  5. pogson says:

    This gadget can work in so many niches it may well be mainstream. oldman. Tell us one role for which it is unsuitable.

    As a thin client this gadget would be suitable for any task except local production of audio/video. Wherever the data can be processed on a server, this thing rocks. It does have some severe disadvantages like excessive portability (theft/loss) but its low cost mitigate that somewhat.

    Writing that this thing has doubtful utility is like writing that a monitor is not useful unless 24 inch or larger. That could be true in particular situations but in most situations that’s false as smart phones, tablets, notebooks and many desktops have smaller monitors.

  6. oldman says:

    “The cotton candy has many advantages for presentation work and in store displays and other things.”

    Nobody would dispute its niche market value Mr. Ham, but is a general purpose computing tool, its utility is doubtful.

  7. the dude says:

    Isnt the raspberry pi the same thing but less powered and way cheaper?

  8. oiaohm says:

    Dr Loser and Clarence Moon the problem is you have no clue what people spend on presentation gear.

    Compared to most control tools are other times used cotton candy is cheap.

    The device is designed to use blue tooth control.

    The cotton candy has many advantages for presentation work and in store displays and other things.

    Of course its 200 dollar price tag is steepish. But compared to leaving a laptop in a room and having that walk with all your data on it. Its very cheap.

    Think about it a cotton candy is fully solid state. So drop it most likely live.

    Also cotton candy means to emulate itself on PC’s and laptops allow you to test your presentation before you take it live.

    Cotton candy default setup for keyboard mouse/hand held control is bluetooth not usb. Again this is presentation setup. Wireless control is a must.

  9. pogson says:

    A USB hub will help. They cost ~$10.

  10. Clarence Moon says:

    I am technically educated enough to understand that a USB power block could be used to power this device, but it only has the one USB plug and if that is stuck into a power supply, there is nothing around to provide input commands or data to the device. Since it only has an HD output port to go along with the USB, all it could do is generate some pictures or other. I don’t see where anyone would be willing to pay $200 just to do that. After all, you can get a complete netbook these days, complete with hard drive, display, and keyboard for fifty bucks more than this thing.

    As top the other USB sockets around the house, I am not so sure that they can be used to run this thing. I know that I cannot charge my Sansa MP3 player by plugging it into my Blu-Ray. I did that once to see what it did and it just put a message “Incompatible Memory Device” or something similar on the screen. It is supposed to be able to play MP3 files, but it will only take a thumb drive.

  11. pogson says:

    I have noticed that many folks who find fault with various technologies lack imagination. For example, with such a gadget,

    • – a business could provide employees with a standard device instead of random devices purchased at BestBuy very cheaply and with little concern about loss,
    • – a business could use these things as thin clients and save a ton per PC,
    • – an individual could use these as ultra-portable PCs not requiring a case and being more rugged than a smart phone,
    • – an organization could use them as giveaways/door-prizes,
    • – a school could use them as targets for teaching embedded software development,
    • – an OEM could buy these to clamp into some sort of case/chassis to make a small cheap computer with keyboard, pointing device and monitor,
    • – an OEM could buy these to give intelligence to almost anything electronic, say, entertainment device, instrumentation, refrigerator,…, and
    • – the small size would be ideal for signage/display where something needs to be displayed but a bulky box would detract.

    In fact, any lack of performance or feature seen by one user might be seen as advantageous by another.

  12. Dr Loser says:

    Oiaohm & Robert:

    I hate to break it to you guys, but for a “target market” to make sense you actually need real people to buy the thing, for some purpose that makes it worth the price, and for a price that seems acceptable.

    $200 for something that plugs into the back of your TV (or monitor) and basically does nothing is not going to attract a “target market” of anybody except people who like Geek toys. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I love Geek toys. I would be overjoyed if I got one of these for Christmas.

    But that’s for two reasons:
    (1) It would be competing with novelty socks and a rather unfortunate gay ironing board cover I was given last year and
    (2) I woudn’t have to pay for it.

    That said, the resale value on this thing is probably lower than the resale value on the novelty socks and the ironing board cover.

    I mean, seriously, what would anybody accomplish with it?

  13. pogson says:

    There are “battery eliminators”/power bricks that have USB ports for charging/powering devices. A USB connector has 4 contacts and they can be used to deliver power without worrying about the signals.

  14. NotZed says:

    moon: plenty of tv’s and monitors have usb ports. many new phone chargers use usb compatible plugs, or there’s a powered hub.

    there’s a few obvious uses – creating or upgrading a ‘smart tv’, or simply turning a tv or monitor into a home computer … plus computer art, entertainment (eg. juke-box, mame) or one-off embedded systems that need high performance/video/wireless in a small space.

    there’s a lot more to computers than slabs, phones, or workstations.

    obviously cheaper would be nice for some of those uses but that would require slower parts, high volume underpaid-labour production, or more time. under 200 sounds reasonable if it were out today.

  15. Clarence Moon says:

    What would someone want to do with this gizmo? It says you have to plug it into a USB port for power, and where do you find a powered USB port other than on some other computer?

  16. oiaohm says:

    Ray “No coaxial cable port?” if no coaxial port is about settop box that is basically skipped in that write up. Does support it.

    Kozmcrae exactly you hit the nail on the head in 12 months time this tech I listed will be all old hat newer and more powerful will be out.

  17. Kozmcrae says:

    Technology doesn’t stand still. They’ll be giving those things away with a fill-up at your local gas station before you know it.

  18. Ray says:

    No coaxial cable port?

  19. oiaohm says:

    Dr Loser that device at 200 dollar has a target market. People going around giving presentations who don’t want to carry a big heavy laptop or a stack of cables or leave something like a phone or laptop behind. Yes a stick in back of screen would mostly go unnoticed. Yes 200 dollars is about portability and hide ability ie small enough that it can be put out of line of vision so go unnoticed.

    Home users I would expect would go somethine like one of these. http://www.cnx-software.com/2011/09/07/low-cost-android-set-top-box-based-on-hisilicon-hi3716c/ Lower power usage than the pent IV and cheaper. Yes settop boxes targeted at the home connected to screen all the time.

    $100 in a beat-up old Pentium IV is not that big of bargain really.

    Really android has something for everyone.

    Android is coming at the desktop market from all sides.

    Also people talking about android malware have not really been paying attention.
    http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/News/BlueStacks-App-Player-for-Windows-XP/
    “Second, Android .APK application packages can be converted into the Windows .MSI format, then distributed and managed with Microsoft Systems Center or Citrix Receiver.”

    Basically the result of BlueStacks is you get Windows Malware + Android Malware when you run Windows and when you run just Android you get Android malware so you are sure ahead running only Android from a malware point of view. Thank you for playing basically. It only a matter of time before developers wake up to the fact they can save developer resources producing android apps and skipping Windows support.

    Of course BlueStacks is lining up to profit from this.

    The game is afoot. Question is can MS recover there footing or will Android just keep on a hitting until MS falls.

  20. pogson says:

    It’s not inconceivable that some homes and workplaces would be monitor/keyboard/mouse stations designed to connect to things like this. It’s not just a storage device: bluetooth, card reader, and WiFi. You probably cannot get that for $10. I think $100 is feasible.

  21. Dr Loser says:

    Oh, come on.

    The fact that it’s priced at ~$200 defines it as a Geek toy. Even at $100, it would still be a Geek toy. I would seriously rather invest $100 in a beat-up old Pentium IV and install Knoppix (or whatever) on it than waste money on this … thing.

    The argument that “I carry a Saviour USB around with me everywhere I go, and people worship me for it” is just plain stupid. If I hung around with the sort if incompetent buffoons that routinely needed their FS fixed via a USB, then I’d carry one too.

    Except it would cost $10, not $200.

    This here thing, Robert, is a Geek toy. I thought you were against wasting money on unnecessary new hardware?

  22. pogson says:

    Amen. The flexibility of GNU/Linux is amazing. I am very sure there isn’t anything it cannot do: embedded, mobile, desktop, notebook, server, router, cluster … It’s all good.

  23. dougman says:

    Geek toy? Tell that to the people where I used a Linux thumb-drive or CD/DVD to recover their files; they called it ‘heaven sent’.

    I present Linux to everyone and anyone, and when their drive is toast. I hand them a one of these tools to boot from and continue functioning.

    Not so long ago, I was away on travels and my laptop hard drive decide d to crash. I happen to carry a Linux DVD with me and I used that to boot-up and continue working. I did this for two weeks actually.

    Just, because “you” think it is useless, doesn’t mean a million others think so.

  24. pogson says:

    Useless to some but adequate for many.

  25. oldman says:

    Another geek toy, pog. Basically useless to the general computer user.

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