All cutting edge technology eventually becomes commodity items. Take calculators, they’ve gone from exclusive, to expensive, to affordable, to cheap, to getting one with your copy of Reader’s Digest. It is this last category where the PC has just taken its first step.
Newly launched in Honk Kong is the ‘iT’ from Asiatotal, the world’s first mass distributed free PC. It will be given away to small businesses and low income groups and is entirely paid for by sponsors (more of later). So what is the machine made up of?
Well, as you’d expect, it is an incredibly stripped down affair. In fact it looks more like a 70’s sci-fi prop than a modern desktop. The main screen is a 7inch LCD (though there is A/V-video, S-Video output) with integrated speakers which can fold down over its keyboard when not in use. It runs on Windows CE and uses a disk on module instead of a usual hard drive. A Via 400MHz processor chugs away at its core which Asiatotal says can be upgraded. There’s a mouse, smart card reader for secure online transactions and preinstalled software including antivirus protection, a Wordpad programme and Microsoft Office file viewer.
So how does this ‘paid for by sponsors’ thing work? Above the keyboard are fourteen ‘hotkeys’ with general labels such as Cinema, Music, Health or Money. Press one and you go to the relevant sponsor for the iT in its distributed region. The sponsor can either exclusively buy its link or lease a webpage slot on which shows up on a list of alternatives. Ten of the fourteen hotkeys will be sold exclusively, the other four are up for grabs.
Hong Kong, India and Russia are the primary targets the iT, model name the ATM1088(L), with schools featuring high up on its press release criteria. Asiatotal has plans to take its concept onto a global stage and no doubt there will be varied specs as it attempts launches on different locations. My only reservation is that no one will bother to hit the hotkeys and sponsors will lose interest. After all, I have about 20 hotkeys on my Logitech keyboard and I couldn’t tell you the last time I pressed any of them.
Still, it’s a brave attempt and I hope it works. Asiatotal isn’t a charity (l don’t like to talk about it!) so it is looking to make a profit, but it’s a nice idea in which I hope there’s some mileage. For more info, including details on qualification criteria for an iT, check out the link below, though I warn you: we Brits have yet to be rated as a poverty stricken area despite the cost of booze and petrol.