Computer visionaries have been preaching about grandiose visions of “cloud computing” for years. The concept: Offer basic computer functions – like office software – as subscription services provided through the Web, rather than software installed on a hard drive. The point is to hide it behind the scenes, allowing the guys running the cloud to upgrade, tweak and maintain the software, taking that load off the user. It’s a bit like going to the store for vegetables instead of planting your own garden. Everything you need is just magically there.
For computer-savvy types who like to play with different programs, keep them updated, and even write their own, this sounds like a bad case of control from Big Brother. But for folks who just want to sit down and use a computer without having to wade through update screens, wonder if they should finally install Media Player 19.5b, or worry about battling viruses, it’s something of a dream come true.
Most of the talk around cloud computing has been conjecture or small-scale implementations, but a far more dramatic proof of concept is just around the corner. The Mountain-View startup CherryPal recently announced one of the first computers to rely entirely on cloud computing, the CherryPal C100 desktop. Using storage and programs provided entirely by CherryPal through the Internet, the new machine should offer users a painless and reliable computing experience, on the cheap.
Image Courtesy of CherryPal
The first remarkable thing about the C100 pops out before even booting it up. It’s tiny. As in, hold-it-in-the-palm-of-your-hand tiny. Only a hair over an inch tall and under six inches long, it’s certainly one of the smaller desktop computers we’ve ever laid eyes on, and it would hide easily behind just about any flat-panel monitor.
Its size makes sense, when you consider what’s inside. No power supply, no conventional hard drive, no bulk, the C100 just includes the bare essentials to support Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and audio/visual output. Hook up a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and Internet connection, and you’re good to go.
Although the CherryPal does run a version of the Linux operating system, users don’t poke around and interact with it the way they might on a normal computer. Everything the C100 needs comes through the Web. For instance, iTunes, OpenOffice, an IM client, and a media player will all run from the CherryPalCloud, a free cluster of programs provided and maintained by CherryPal. Even storage comes primarily from the cloud – the machine has 4GB of flash available locally, but offers 50GB online for documents and media. This configuration undoubtedly places some severe limitations on what you can do with the machine, but for routine users who don’t like to push the limits, all the essentials are represented.
There are other benefits as well. The CherryPal uses a super-efficient Freescale triple-core processor running at just 400MHz, which won’t set any speed records, but will also barely register on your electric bill. The whole machine uses about as much as a clock radio: just two watts. That’s 98 percent less than a conventional tower, a big enough difference to easily add up over time.
And besides the long-term savings, the C100 also stands out for its low purchase price of $249.99. So while cloud computing may not be for everyone, we can at least say that it’s cheap to try. Readers can find out more about the specifics of this off-beat machine at CherryPal’s Web site.