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And speaking of low-cost computers like the OLPC, Slashdot has a post about a company developing a micro-sized computer on a circuit board that will be three times faster than the Raspberry Pi (pictured at left),, and cost 40% less at $15 each (once it gets into mass production). As submitted by a representative of that company, the post reads:

"An initiative by a Community Interest Company Rhombus Tech aims to provide Software (Libre) Developers with a PCMCIA-sized modular computer that could end up in mass-volume products. The reference design mass-volume pricing guide from the SoC manufacturer, for a device with similar capability to the Raspberry Pi, is around $15: 40% less than the $25 Raspberry Pi but for a device with an ARM Cortex A8 CPU 3x times faster than the 700mhz ARM11 used in the Raspberry Pi. GPL Kernel source code is available. A page for community ideas for motherboard designs has also been created. The overall goal is to bring more mass-volume products to market which Software (Libre) Developers have actually been involved in, reversing the trend of endemic GPL violations surrounding ARM-based mass-produced hardware. The Preorder pledge registration is now open (account creation required)."

The representative has been active in the discussion thread that followed, replying to users’ questions and comments. He notes that PCMCIA is just the form factor they’re using because it has a standardized form of connection that is still being manufactured; the devices will not fit into laptops’ PCMCIA card slots.

It’s pretty clear that if these boards become available, they could be used in a variety of electronic devices—computers, e-readers, circuit boards. And since their design is open, they could be easily adapted to make the devices less expensive, since the manufacturers don’t need to spend a fortune on their own circuit board research and development.

What isn’t clear to me, though, is what this means to me as an end-user at the moment. The FAQ doesn’t say what, if any, devices will actually be using Rhombus Tech’s card, or what non-technical end-users could do with it if given one.

(Indeed, the FAQ is sometimes so full of corporate-speak that it’s hard to make sense of it at all. “[The project’s goal is to] create a synergy between the ultra-low-cost Factories and SoC vendors of China with their expertise in Hardware, and Software (Libre) Developers with their expertise in GNU/Linux and other OSes, with a view to leveraging the combination to create affordable and desirable mass-volume products that are GPL-compliant before they hit the Retail Hypermarket shelves.” Synergy? Leveraging? Hypermarket? What?)

Raspberry Pi, at least, is actually going to ship full-fledged $25 computers that only lack being plugged into devices to use for standard Linux applications. But then, Raspberry Pi is further along in its development, so perhaps something similar will come of this project, too.

 
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