Click to viewThere's a cheap computer on the way that undercuts them all, the $99 Zonbu, due this summer in a silent-running form factor that's about the size of a paperback book. It has 4GB of flash memory on board, and automatically backs up a copy of your data online. Besides that $99 purchase price, you'll also pay $12.95 a month (for 25GB,scales up to 100GB for more money) to store its data on the Zonbu servers, giving you the ability to compute anywhere with this tiny device, or access your data from other PCs. If you don't commit to a service plan, the little PC costs $250.
Of course, you'll have to buy a keyboard, monitor and mouse for this diminutive computer, and you'll need a broadband Internet connection, too, but the company says its little Gentoo Linux-based mini PC has all of the applications most people ever need already preloaded. This sounds intriguing, but what applications are included, and can you actually get any work done with it?
Among the fanless Zonbu's 23 open-source Linux-based applications are Firefox, OpenOffice, which is an office suite compatible with Microsoft Office with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and more, and there's also a video player and a place to upload your photos.
They've also loaded up an iTunes-like music and movie playing application, Skype, email, and instant messaging software. On the company's password-protected website that's not yet open to the public, there's a video demo that shows the system in operation, and it has a close resemblance to Windows Vista, so much so that it might raise the eyebrow of a legal eagle here and there.
The founders of Zonbu, CEO Grégoire Gentil and Chairman (and also Vudu video-downloading box creator) Alain Rossmann's main selling points are that low price, its Internet connectedness, and the 15-watt energy-efficient design they say will save $10 per month on energy bills that would eliminate most of that $12.95 monthly charge for the automatic backup and software update service.