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Old 02-19-2008, 04:14 AM   #1
AdrianWerner
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The £99 laptop/tablet


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The £99 laptop: how can it be so cheap?
A new budget computer aimed at schoolchildren is about to be launched. Our correspondent tries it out
The £99 Elonex One laptop
Mark Harris

A new laptop computer for just £99 sounds like the kind of offer found in a spam e-mail or on a dodgy auction website. But the British company Elonex is launching the country’s first sub £100 computer later this month and hopes to be making 200,000 of them by the summer. It will be aimed at schoolchildren and teenagers, and looks set to throw the market for budget laptops wide open.

Called the One, it can be used as a traditional notebook computer or, with the screen detached from the keyboard, as a portable “tablet” – albeit without the planned touchscreen that Elonex had to abandon to hit its £99 price tag. Wi-fi technology lets users access the internet or swap music (and homework) files between computers wirelessly.

Personal files can be stored on the laptop’s 1GB of built-in memory or on a tough digital wristband (1-8GB, from £10) that children can plug into the USB socket of whichever computer they happen to be using, be it the One, a PC at school or their parents’ laptop.

So how can Elonex make a computer for so little? After all, UK consumers paid an average of £477 for a new laptop in 2007, according to the retail analyst GfK.

The secret is simple: open-source software. The One runs on Linux, which is a rival to Windows but completely free to use. Open-source software can be freely swapped or modified by anyone who wants it. In the past such operating systems (there are several of them) have been outgunned by the more sophisticated Windows programs. However, an open-source operating system is ideal for low-cost devices as it performs well on less powerful, cheaper hardware.

Naturally, the One is more basic than all-singing, all-dancing notebooks. Nonetheless, it includes a free word processor and spreadsheet, a free web browser and free e-mail software. It has a 7in screen, a rubbery little keyboard and no CD drive. And it all runs on an ageing chip that was designed before its target audience of seven-year-olds were even born.

InGear had an exclusive hands-on look at a preproduction One. The keyboard was slow and spongy and the built-in speakers could be louder but the screen was bright and the software package impressively varied (if rather sluggish) on this prototype.

Preloaded programs ranged from instant messaging software and a photo editor to games and an MP3 player. Moving files to and from the USB wristband was easy enough – and there’s a Bluetooth version with 2GB of memory (£120) that lets you swap files with mobile phones too.

Elonex will be launching the computer at the Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham at the end of this month, and is targeting schools as potential buyers.

The Elonex One isn’t the only low-cost educational laptop out there, however. Asus launched an open-source laptop in the run-up to Christmas last year. The Eee PC (about £200) has proved popular with adults as well as children, with its first shipment selling out nationwide within hours of its November release.

The One Laptop per Child initiative, which began in America, hopes to offer a “Give one, get one” event this year in Britain, where consumers can buy two computers – one for themselves and one for a child abroad – for about £200.

But open-source software has its problems. If no one owns it, there’s no one to complain to when things go wrong – and the One has no antivirus or firewall software built in. The old-fashioned feel of the One’s programs could also flummox modern cyber-kids used to the slick menus, wizards and plug-and-play simplicity of Windows.

Of course, in the context of laptops costing more than £1,000 – and even copies of Microsoft Office software retailing at as much as £120 – paying £99 for a fully functional, internet-ready laptop packed with software isn’t a huge risk to take.

And it’s this magic price that is the One’s biggest asset. The more that parents choose to buy Ones, the more music and games their kids will share, and the more sought after it will become. A laptop as the coolest thing in the playground? Stranger things have happened.
this is just...wow
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:42 AM   #2
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Sweet! I don't know how well the hardware will work, but it looks like this could be pretty good for reading (comics would be especially nice when using that screen as a tablet).
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Old 02-19-2008, 07:06 AM   #3
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Sounds great! I wonder what the battery life will be?
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Old 02-19-2008, 08:14 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Sounds great! I wonder what the battery life will be?
For a bit more on the Elonex, see:
http://www.engadget.com/2008/02/17/e...0-quid-laptop/
http://gizmodo.com/357737/the-99-elo...the-innovation

And the low-priced space is beginning to get crowded. In addition to the ASUS eee, the OLPC, and the Elonex, we have the Everex Cloudbook and the forthcoming Pixel Qi offering.
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Old 02-19-2008, 12:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
For a bit more on the Elonex, see:
http://www.engadget.com/2008/02/17/e...0-quid-laptop/
http://gizmodo.com/357737/the-99-elo...the-innovation

And the low-priced space is beginning to get crowded. In addition to the ASUS eee, the OLPC, and the Elonex, we have the Everex Cloudbook and the forthcoming Pixel Qi offering.
______
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Here is the source for the product
http://ec.fontastic.com.tw/clients/s...213084909.html

Basically a photoframe with a keyboard and 3 hour battery.

Dale
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Old 02-29-2008, 12:24 PM   #6
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now this is where I had expected computing to be heading 15 years ago. But we just get the same variations one a very old theme and architecture. Really due to the Big Business in terms of both hardware and software (ie MS) we are seeing steadily INCREASE prices for marginal improvements from generation to generation.

Cell phones should be $20...maybe $50 for a Crackberry. But because the Telco's kickback so much to the hardware makers n terms of the contract you sign the price for a cell is artificially inflated. It is misdirection when we read how the contract subsidizes the cost of of phone. Not it does not, what it does is allow the Cellular provider to stifle competition in the area of service by having certain hardware exclusivity to their service. And they do this by paying a portion of the subscriptions back the the device mfg in order to keep the price of unlocked phones inflated making them unattractive to people who cannot afford to layout a lot of cash up front and who are also conditioned to "...just make payments..." on everything in their lives. Read what these companies say...or more importantly what their propaganda does not say. I feel safe in saying that the bundling of service with phones is a huge cash cow for that industry, it's anticompetitive which keeps prices which should be falling higher, especially here in the US where we pay HUGE over what both cellular and data connections cost in Europe. And it is all based on the way MS licensed it's OS's with all the big system mfg's...same model with just a few industry specific tweaks.

To see companies like the folks with OLPC & the new gens of that device is heart warming really. They prove that the mfg'ing costs of any of these devices is NOT what people believe. And they aren't as high as people believe...even, and I know this is an old argument here, but even e-ink displays do not cost what is claimed. Those companies are including the cost of the R&D in a single generation of devices simply because people never thing about the value in a purchase anymore only the endorphin release of the purchase itself. Production costs are trivial in comparison to the R&D which lasts generations but is billed to the consumer as if every new product is a whole new device based on completely new technology. Anyway old topic that never goes anywhere so I just mention it for comparison's sake.

If these newer portable devices continue this trend we will not only see and end to the artificial premium for portability but also significant innovation for a change...and a lessening lock on things by both MS & Apple. Face it MS has never had ANY competition on the desktop because Apple never sold their OS as a stand alone product. There is your stagnation and an OS so huge that nobody really knows what it does anymore. Trade off is applications work on any brand of system...this is good but has any of the paradigms changed in the past decade? Nope...

Add things like GoogleGears into the mix and we are seeing a truly hardware independent/transparent OS revolution happening FINALLY.
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