Debates can continue to circle forever as to how far Microsoft wanted to take back ground from Android through Windows 8. Intel, though, has just launched a push into a form factor that Android, and to a lesser extent, Linux, really created: the computer on a stick.
Intel’s introduction for its new Intel Compute Stick device doesn’t exactly mince words about the point. “The Intel® Compute Stick is a new generation compute-on-a-stick device that’s ready-to-go out-of–the-box and offers the performance, quality, and value you expect from Intel,” it declares. “Pre-installed with Windows 8.1 or Linux, get a complete experience on an ultra-small, power-efficient device that is just four inches long, yet packs the power and reliability of a quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor, with built-in wireless connectivity, on-board storage, and a micro SD card slot for additional storage.” Full specifications of the device aren’t carried on the Intel site right now, but reports elsewhere indicate a $149 device with the now-customary HDMI plug to connect directly to a monitor, with a Baytrail Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage – respectable enough specs at that price point.
Rikomagic and a host of other vendors first popularized this space with their Android-based dongle solutions, and as I’ve said before, the form factor can be practically the dream portable solution, so long as it has a monitor to plug into and a power source. (There’s no indication here yet, for instance, whether the Intel Compute Stick can draw power directly from the HDMI socket as some other devices do.) However, those devices mostly required compromises and imposed limitations in the past that kept them short of the full desktop computing experience, as does, for instance, the Google ChromeCast HDMI dongle, which enables streaming to a monitor but is in effect a glorified wireless display port. Intel might now be able to skip those compromises. Of course, no one is expecting this to be a high-end gaming machine, but for most everday computing purposes, with the capacity to run most desktop software, it could be just the job. Which makes you wonder: What more functionality would you need to justify shelling out more for?
Linux users will still be better off with the well-supported and much cheaper Raspberry Pi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi