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Cloud Computing Start-Up Creates PowerPC-Based Cloud Desktop

Promises the Same User Experience as A Traditional PC

There hasn’t been a PowerPC-based computer since Apple abandoned the dingus and bolted to Intel, a move that did wonders for Apple’s volumes.

Now a Mountain View start-up called CherryPal is about to introduce a $249 Debian-based desktop that’s about the size of a dime store paperback built around the 2W MPC5121e mobileGT PowerPC chip that Freescale usually sells to Detroit for navigation devices.

The thing promises the same user experience as a traditional PC even though the chip is only good for 400MHz, putting it roughly on a par with Intel’s newfangled sub-3W Atom chip.

However, CherryPal has collapsed a customized version of Debian and a tweaked version of the Firefox browser into a single patent-pending software layer, a technique that’s supposed to make the computer exponentially faster, and the chip supports graphics and audio so you should be able to dally to your heart’s content on YouTube.

The widget also works off of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – which with virtualization should give you = access to Windows programs – and, since the computer has no moving parts, shouldn’t be subject to the traditional upgrade process every few years. The company claims it could last 10 years or more, which=20 should at least get you through school.

See, the ultra-green CherryPal cloud computer is designed to appeal to the idealism of the high school and college set. And the company’s backers also intend to give quantities of the thing to emerging countries like Uganda.

Naturally users will have to supply their own screen, keyboard and mouse.

CherryPal CEO and serial entrepreneur Max Seybold, himself a German import, says the little box, which consumes 97% less energy than the average PC, also uses 80% fewer components, which of course reduces the amount of resources it takes to make the PC.

The device is supposed to boot in 20 seconds and automatically take you to the part of EC2 called CherryPalCloud, secured by patent-pending proprietary encryption that is supposed to be “defense-grade” and so unhackable and virus-free.

The thing has no exposed operating system so all the applications and functions are managed strictly by its Firefox browser and CherryPal does all the software upgrades and installation so there’s no maintenance.

Most – but not all – of the information is processed and stored on the web and to defer the cost of using EC2 CherryPal plans to sell ads that the user sees only an application is opened. The ad campaign is supposed to start in Q4.

The device, however, is something of a hybrid because it comes pre-loaded with OpenOffice. It also supports iTunes and includes a CherryPal-made media player that Seybold says runs all the common file formats and a CherryPal-made instant messenger that supports all the common IM programs.

CherryPal intends to add more programs over time. The current storage limit is set at 50GB although Seybold said the limit should increase.

Now, since the gismo will be sold over the web CherryPal will depend on word of mouth but it’s not leaving anything to chance. It’s organizing 300 so-called “Band Angels” armed with free CherryPal PCs and a promotion code to blog the word.They’ll get a $15 commission for each CherryPal machine they move and the buyer will get a $10 discount.

Seybold wouldn’t disclose the landed cost of the widget, which is being made in China, but acknowledges that the margins are “razor thin.” Deliveries start at the end of the month in North America and Europe.

Seybold said the company the company has pre-orders for upwards of a thousand units and since it’s using open source it intends to disclose its patent-pending widgetry.

CherryPal, now 30-odd people, has raised $5 million in backing from a private equity house in Hong Kong called Tri-State and some private individuals in the UK.

The 10.5 ounce device includes 256MB of DDR2 DRAM, 4GB of NAND Flash, WiFi 802 11b/g, two USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Ethernet, a VGA display jack, headphone stereo audio jack and AC-DC adapter power supply. There is supposed to be a 24/7 help line.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
Solmn 08/05/08 03:18:13 AM EDT

Thank you for talking about the CherryPal C100. I am linking to this page from my blog, CherryPal for Everyone, at cherrypal dot blogspot dot com.

I'm told that CherryPal will be coming out with a laptop as well. I agree with using the term "netbook" to refer to this category of machines, appropriate for both the desktop and notebook version, the difference being only the built in monitor and keyboard.

I am excited about how the CherryPal can bridge barriers to people who have not had access to computers or the internet because of money, fear, education or other challenges. I will be commenting on my experience of using it on my blog as soon as I get my own CherryPal C100!

Although it may seem hypocritical to require your own monitor and keyboard for a "portable" device, I can't wait to find out if the comfort factor will outweigh the convenience. You can use CODE CPP206 to get your own CherryPal for $10 less than purchase price at Paypal. http://cherrypal.blogspot.com