Thursday, July 19, 2007


This summer the pair will begin selling a simplified Linux-based PC for $99 and a $12.95 monthly subscription charge. They say that the deal is better than it looks because the 15-watt PC can save up to $10 a month in electricity compared with a standard 200-watt PC.

Their company is Zonbu, and the Zonbu computer will be sold through its Web site, The founders said that the PC had received the highest certification possible from the Green Electronics Council, a nonprofit group that has created a product classification standard known as Epeat (for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). Zonbu said that it would be the first desktop computer for consumers to receive the gold rating.

The computer is the size of a cigar box and uses a low-power Intel-compatible microprocessor from VIA Technologies of Taiwan. It comes with four gigabytes of flash memory instead of a disk drive, a spinning mechanical part that uses much of a PC’s power. It also lacks a fan, another big energy user.

The Zonbu PC also uses a Gentoo version of the Linux operating system and will come with a range of software applications like the Mozilla Firefox browser, Skype voice-over-Internet service, OpenOffice software suite and many games. An additional 25 gigabytes of free online storage is available, with more offered for purchase.
I find this product intriguing for 3 reasons.

First, the hardware is unique. It is tiny, and comes without either a hard drive or a DVD player. Interesting idea to just use flash memory making the device smaller and more resilient (all hard drives fail eventually, it is just a matter of when). I love the fact that it has no fan and runs completely silently. Similar non-Zonbu hardware is available for $189. Not sure that 4 GB is enough space, but if you can store your files online it just might work.

Second, marketing the computer as green is novel. With the unique hardware, it ends up using very little power, so why not market it as such? Of course it doesn't come with a monitor, and that is likely to use more electricity than the computer.

Third, subscription based setup is interesting. They are going with a cellphone model of subsidizing the hardware and then making their money on the monthly subscription fees. I think paying a monthly fee for customer support, online storage and upgrades on software makes sense. I think it would make more sense to bundle it with an internet connection. Not sure how successful this will be in the market though. People PC had a similar subscription model (with internet access) that I don't think did so well.

I am tempted to buy one of these, but the Linux OS and lack of a DVD player are major drawbacks. From a green and economic standpoint it might be better to buy a used laptop that has a DVD player and an LCD monitor built in, has Windows installed and yet would still take little electricity to run.

via NY Times (Engadget has a couple of posts with some interesting comments as well)


Anonymous said...

Looks like they do offer an external DVD drive for $50 on their site.

My thoughts were similar to yours about the potential of the device and I've posted a number of thoughts on whether or not I can replace my desktop PC with this $99 box for most tasks. You can read more in my blog:

Fat Knowledge said...

Mr. Zonbu,

Interesting blog you have. Looking forward to see what your impression of the device is once you get it.

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