01 November 2007

Beyond the gPhone: the gPC

On Thursday, WalMart begins selling the Everex Green gPC TC2502, a $198, low-power, Linux-based PC designed primarily for running Web 2.0 applications.

When users first fire up their gPC, they'll get a Mac-like desktop with a series of program icons "docked" across the bottom. The icons are bookmarks to popular and useful Web 2.0 services from Google and other vendors. There are icons for Google Docs, Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube, for example, as well as Meebo, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Sprinkled into the lineup are some non-Web-based apps, like Skype and Gimp, but the novice user won't know, initially, which are local applications and which are Web services.

There are two really interesting things here.

One, of course is the price, which would be impossible with Microsoft Windows. The second is the way the manufacturer is trying to create a machine whose software is based around Web apps. One important aspect of this approach is that it decouples user software from the underlying operating system. So the fact that this machine is running GNU/Linux is almost at the level of what BIOS it uses.

As Google fills out its SaaS vision, so we can expect more of these extremely lean machines, for equally lean prices - and increasingly lean times for Microsoft.

Update: Apparently, this is on older Windows machine, but with a leaner OS. Why?

“Windows Vista has its own market, but it’s not on the $200 end. Those experiences aren’t good. Our Vista Basic units were selling well at $498, but it was the highest return rate ever, because the client was so heavy” and overwhelmed the hardware capabilities. To Kim, the message is Windows needs the power of a premium machine.

And as The Innovator's Dilemma teaches us, the premium market is *always* cannabalised by the cheaper models as they gain more capabilities for the same cost.

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