Over the last few weeks, we covered the Cherrypal Africa program, which ostensibly builds some of its budget laptops from batches of discounted parts in order to offer them at a lower cost. Sadly, no one who has ordered an Africa has yet reported receiving it in all the Internet forums I monitor—and many disgruntled customers are expressing the opinion that Cherrypal’s management is hopelessly inept at best, and possibly even actively malfeasant.
But for those whose preferred e-book device of choice would be just such an inexpensive laptop, Ars Technica reports that a new initiative from Shuttle might eventually let customers scratch-build laptops themselves. Although aimed at small laptop OEMs (who have trouble getting parts cheaply enough to compete with the big companies), it could also make laptop-building as easy as building a “beige box”.
“In fact, if this works,” the Shuttle rep continued, “it could spark a revolution in laptop upgradability. You drop $2000 on a high-end laptop, and it doesn’t matter, because in a year the new laptop platform comes out, and you take it to a shop to upgrade for a few hundred bucks.” “Wait,” I interjected. “What’s stopping the user from doing it himself?” “Absolutely nothing. The motherboard is as easy to replace as the motherboard in a desktop PC.”
At the moment, Shuttle is more interested in letting the small OEMs compete with Dell and the rest than setting up a system for consumer scratch-building. But if the program takes off, someday you might order your next laptop in pieces from NewEgg.
And who knows? Perhaps this could someday extend to more e-book-friendly tablet PCs as well—for what is a tablet but a keyboardless laptop?
I’ve got an idea for people who read hackaday.com as well as teleread: building a tablet with a Pixel-Qi display developer kit (it is said to be available sometime between q1-q2 2010 -vaporware anyone?-), and a pico-itx motherboard, beagleboard, bifferboard, or any other single board computer; then design a lego body or case with a Lego CAD (like LDraw, MLCad, or even Lego Digital Designer) and Brickforge for ordering Lego parts, then Creative-Commons license the how-to documentation, or even sell kits ready for assembly.
If Pixel Qi does come out with a developer kit, it will probably be priced in the thousand dollar range at least. I seem to recall e-ink developer kits being that much. The point of these kits is for business concerns to use them to develop new hardware, not hobbyists to use them to tinker, and they’ll be priced accordingly.
Yeah, I know Cambridge e-ink kits were +1000 dollars worth; in this video it is said that Pixel-Qi “hopes” to make available a kit for those tech savvy enough to be able to mod their computers (video url at the exact mark where it’s said):
They refer to it as a “DIY kit”.