Backed Or Whacked: Give PC A Chance

Posted: May 12, 2013 in Column, GT
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These days, it seems that anything that whiffs of the
traditional PC has all the market appeal of a month-
old banana. Microsoft and its hardware cohorts are
trying to fight back against the image of the staid
tower and notebook with touch-enabled, all-in-one
computers, clickety-covered tablets and convertible notebooks that twist like a contortionist. With no
stake in Windows to protect, though, device
crowdfunders have taken a different tack, pushing
Android and other mobile OSes into alien
configurations. While a bit of old hat for tiny game
consoles from OUYA and GameStick, the game is now on for more general computing tasks. Backed: MiiPC ZeroDesktop is a more established business than your typical solo entrepreneur sailing
off into crowdfunding waters. But its experience with
cloud services, as well as remote access lend
differentiation to MiiPC, an overgrown milk pint of an
Android computer that features extensive controls for
the pre-tween to tween in your household and a green under-light for no good reason except it looks kind of
cool. MiiPC will feature a companion app that lets
ever-watchful parents and guardians control access to
apps like a boss regardless of the theme-song
message of Malcolm in the Middle. The MiiPC project wrapped up this week more than
tripling its $50,000 goal for the mini-desktop that
backers could scoop up for $99. As the device uses a
similar chipset to the one in present-day Google TV
boxes, the company is going to turn its interns onto it
this summer to see what kind of alternative uses can be found for a small, albeit plug-tethered, Android
device. Whacked: Aurus Dual-Screen Tablet PC. What madness is this? A mobile device with not one but
two displays? The unthinkable has been thought of
with Windows PCs by Toshiba and Acer and an
Android device by Sony. All failed in part because the
underlying operating systems are not optimized for
doing things like, say, putting a keyboard or game controls on one screen with the display of an email
client or game on the other. The campaign page
acknowledges the issue, asking, “Need some dual
screen apps?,” assuring backers that they are
developing some. Sony, for its part, said it was
working with third-party developers. But, again, good luck with that without Google throwing its full weight
behind multi-screen devices. Backers could have nabbed the double-barrell Android
tablet starting at €399, but it passed few consumers’
screenings. The project racked up little more than 1
percent of its lofty €200,000 goal. Backed: CoolShip. It wasn’t quite the level of integration we see in today’s all-in-one computers like
the iMac, but some of the earliest PCs had no
separate tower enclosure, integrating the processor
and memory into the same casing as the keyboard.
Perhaps the slickest examples of these early designs
were from Commodore, which used them in the rotund and popular Commodore 64 and VIC-20. Indeed, that
brand and its tell-tale industrial design has been
trotted out for pricey Windows-ready x86 PCs
designed into cases appealing to the nostalgic. The Android-touting CoolShip, on the other hand, is
not only cheap at $99, but even upgradeable so you
can swap in new, more powerful processors as they
become available. The flexibility should also help
address another issue with computers integrated into
keyboards: death by spilled beverage. CoolShip sailed by its campaign goal of $10,000, nearly
doubling that amount, and is expected to start
shipping to backers this month.

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