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Portables Technology

Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived 437

Posted by timothy
from the near-enough-at-least dept.
Roman Phalanx writes "OLPC had promised that it would be possible to mass produce a sub-$100 laptop. The folks at OLPC tried to realize that dream by re-imagining what a laptop looks like. How large of screen and keyboard it has. What OS runs on the laptop. Now that OLPC has decided to super size their systems to run Windows XP, the $100 price point has slipped beyond their reach. A Chinese firm has realized that dream. Taking the best from both the OLPC and EeePC. They ditched x86 compatibility and switched to a MIPS architecture to further reduce production costs. HiVision has managed to create a UMPC that sells right now for $120.00. They say they have refined the manufacturing process and have learned from building this laptop how to mass produce a laptop that will sell for $98.00." (More below, including a link to a video of the device.)
"The new HiVision MiniNote is due out in October of 2008. TechVideoBlog has footage of one of these Mini Notes being shown off at a trade show in Germany. They have managed to borrow a unit overnight for a while and have done a quick review on it. Overall it looks pretty good. MIPS based processor, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing. Running a custom Chinese Linux distrubution named Xip.

Overall performance seems snappy and no problems connecting to WiFi. Other than the lack of a webcam and the Adobe Flash Player it seems perfect. For $98 it looks like quite a value."
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Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#24881465)

    Here is a quick link to a youtube video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKQbN6tpYXw [youtube.com]

    And I promise, it's not a rick rolling.

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#24881469) Homepage

    looks like 800x480 is becoming the new 1280×1024.

  • heh.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#24881473)
    Strange times.
    A pc for under 100$ and a shiny phone for over 400$. both made in china.
    • Re:heh.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881867) Homepage
      And neither is able to play flash. O brave new world!
      • Re:heh.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:58PM (#24882025)

        Indeed! Phones and netbooks will help us eradicate Flash from the Web!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "O wonder!
        How many cheap laptops are there here!
        How Flash and Silverlight-free their browsing is!
        O brave new world
        That hath such corporations in't!

        There, fixed it for Aldous and Shakespeare.

        Let it be known that even the greatest writers in history are not beyond the arrogance of a Slashdot AC. Along with the dreadful and degrading words: 'There, fixed it for you.'

  • by JackassJedi (1263412) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:09PM (#24881491)
    I think from past experience (Linux 64-bit) that we'll be waiting a long time for Flash on this one... other than that it seems like a great idea to do what they did!
    • by martinw89 (1229324) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:26PM (#24881681)

      Gnash already has MIPS support [wikipedia.org]. As this project is actually still moving right along, we can only hope for more. Plus, Gnash already supports YouTube (although it seems people are still having problems).

      Bottom line: Thoughts of Adobe supporting Flash on MIPS is a joke. Gnash already supports MIPS but we'll have to wait a little longer for Gnash to support more advanced features.

      NOTE: Swfdec [freedesktop.org] also supports MIPS. I have had more luck with Swfdec, and some distros are making it the default free Flash player. Plus, it seems to have more advanced feature supported.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Drantin (569921)

        This [thebackbutton.com] which is linked to from here [adobe.com] seems to say something...

    • by Tester (591) <olivier...crete@@@ocrete...ca> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:55PM (#24881981) Homepage

      There are versions of Flash available for ARM and MIPS if you pay for them.. Example: the Nokia N8x0 devices...

    • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:15PM (#24882625) Journal

      I think from past experience (Linux 64-bit) that we'll be waiting a long time for Flash on this one...

      Flash animations, and Flash Video are two very different things, and almost entirely separate.

      FLV is already supported everywhere, thanks to libavcodec. You just need to parse the SWF player and find the actual file to play.

      SWF animations, however, require a full-fledged player, and won't be supported. Still, how big of an issue is that going to be? Are there many websites out there that provide no alternative to their SWF menus?

      For games, and the like, there is a standalone SWF player for MIPS Linux (found on similar portables--see my recent posts), which would trivially allow SWF animations launched by web pages to be played separate from the browser.

      So that's a fairly narrow case of SWF that doesn't work on this sytem, and I suppose that might be worked around as well by somehow sending feedback between the standalone SWF player and the browser.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:16PM (#24882635)

      Don't really need flash for those video sites like youtube, and most everything else is just advertising - check out this info about how to download the videos as mp4 files:

      http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/04/download-youtube-videos-as-mp4-files.html [blogspot.com]

      In the comments there are a lot of sites listed that will automate the process for you.

  • If it doesn't run the Flash plugin, it's out of the Interweb game for most people. I'm sure someone will port GNU Gnash to it, but that's hardly a substitute. If the buyer only cares about some specific function like word processing, this might not matter. But the usual idea of netbooks is that they are more or less fully web-enabled.

    • by TheNarrator (200498) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:20PM (#24881597)

      The iphone doesn't run flash and it costs twice as much. No one will ever buy one!

      • The iphone doesn't run flash and it costs twice as much. No one will ever buy one!

        When you buy a computer smaller than your hand you pretty much accept you won't get a full browsing experience out of it. Not so with a netbook, which despite its size is still basically a cheap laptop, and comes with laptop expectations.

        To me the interesting thing about the rise of the netbooks is that they mark the death of the upgrade cycle that Microsoft and Intel have fed off for many years. Basically you're getting a laptop with the power of a four year old model, but lightweight, cheap, and with a

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Umm, what's it run then? Youtube seems to work.

    • Gnash has already been ported to MIPS, so has Swfdec. See my above post. [slashdot.org] I definitely agree though, at the moment Gnash (and to a lesser extent Swfdec) are not a good substitute for Adobe Flash.

      • Ah, no Flash, eh? This feature list just gets better and better. How did they keep Flash off of it? Apple figured out how to block it from iPhone, and if they could just figure out how to block it out of OS X, their marketshare would undoubtedly spike. I just wish those malware writers could find something better to do with their time instead of Flashing us with the 3rd Great Scourge of the Internet, after spam and viruses.

    • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881855)
      Most flash can be simulated. Most people can do it by banging their head hard on a desk three times. For IT people it is easier - get somebody to stand behind you to repeat the incredibly stupid term "interweb" and your head will hurt just as much as if you've seen nearly any flash content on the net.
    • by fermion (181285)
      Yes which means it is a work machine. Give this to the employees, students, etc, and it is possible they might be productive instead of watching p0rn all day. There are enough resources that don't depend on flash that it might make a good choice for the kiddos at home.

      But seriously, if this can log onto a webdav partition, and run LaTeX, it might be a serious writing machine, akin to the Tandy 200 that was my mainstay for so long. It certainly runs OO.org, which allows one to make presentations, that

  • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:12PM (#24881523) Homepage

    No flash? That's a feature, not a bug!

  • by tfrayner (186362) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:16PM (#24881553) Homepage

    They say they have refined the manufacturing process and have learned from building this laptop how to mass produce a laptop that will sell for $98.00

    So... "Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived". And yet... they haven't. It'd be nice (although, apparently, unrealistic) to think that we've learnt by now not to give credence to vaporware. Color me unimpressed.

    • by eclectro (227083) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:21PM (#24881625)

      Color me unimpressed.

      I too refuse to be satisfied until it comes with my happy meal.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881857)

      There's no doubt it's possibly vaporware.

      But, there are 2 things to consider. 1. The model they displayed is 120--not too far off from 100, really. 2. The 98 model is due out in october, which is one month away. It might be that it is perpetually 1 month away, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until november.

      The real question for me is the usefulness of it. That thing looks like it's slightly larger than a Nintendo DS, which is pretty small. I'm wondering just how easy this thing will be to use, or if I'll have to resort to hunt and peck, or thumbing the keyboard to type in what I want.

    • They *are* shipping. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RustinHWright (1304191) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:45PM (#24882877) Homepage Journal
      Unless they're lying in the video, they've already sold over ten thousand of these puppies, or at least something that's about version 0.93 of it. That doesn't sound like vaporware to me.
  • by linzeal (197905) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:17PM (#24881575) Homepage Journal
    OLPC was a noble idea, but one that was fundamentally flawed; this is because the specs did not originate from the areas of the world that would be using it but were spun out of a pie in the sky engineering lab. The scale of the OLPC was immense and impractical and the fact that they attempted it at all they should be given alot of credit for dealing with the political, economic and technical problems.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Bah, the problem was too much press. If they had just quietly done what they wanted to do, they would have gotten the sales they needed without Intel and Microsoft butting in. But no, NN had to go toot his horn.

  • Although the laptop is probably a great piece of engineering for something that has a sub-$100 price tag, the decision to go with a MIPS processor is probably going to relegate the device to niche markets - census taking, for example, or maybe something along the lines of inventory control.

    The lack of official (and I emphasize "official") Flash 9 and Adobe PDF support would probably be a deal breaker for Joe Average Home and Business user.

    Granted, a most of the PDF spec is now available royalty-free, and an

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Whilst I agree that non-official flash is a bad thing, non-official pdf software is (IMHO) far superior to the adobe offerings.

      Foxit (which won't be on MIPS) is a great, lightweight reader. And whatever came with my linux distros (debian, ubuntu and redhat) works just as well.

      I don't think Joe average is that bothered about pdf either, personally, not bothered enough that it has to be adobe.

      MIPS is cool. My router runs on MIPS, as does my PSP. I have three linux on ARM devices, a linux on PPC and a couple o

    • by jroysdon (201893)

      I don't think Joe Average or any business user is going to touch this laptop. IMHO, it's meant for the low-end of the market - young kids and old folks. It's perfect for them.

  • where to get one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by debatem1 (1087307) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881865)
    Sooo... where are they available? A quick google search yields nothing on either the currently available models or this one.
  • "Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived"

    ...has managed to create a UMPC that sells right now for $120.00. They say they have refined the manufacturing process and have learned from building this laptop how to mass produce a laptop that will sell for $98.00

    Tagged !arrived...

  • by wlfischer (1357925) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:51PM (#24881935)

    This shows on the YouTube video at 03:58:

    400MHz/32bit CPU
    128M/64M RAM
    1GB NAND Flash
    Linux or WinCE
    7" 800x480 display
    Wireless LAN 802.11b/g
    10/100M ethernet

  • by Caspian (99221) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:52PM (#24881957)

    ...when there's a link to BUY ONE. Now. Right now. I have my credit card at the ready. Where can I buy one, even at the $120 price point that they are supposedly selling "right now" for?

    Well? Link or it didn't happen. Otherwise, this is just another fucking slashvertisement.

  • I think it's extremely safe to say this is completely vaporware hype, with no substance at all.

    Laptops that just about exactly match the specs and description of this supposed $100 machine, currently retail for $250:

    http://www.compsource.com/pn/3KRZ40074GB/3k_Computers_2340/ [compsource.com]

    I fail to believe it's being sold at a 100% mark-up, or that any magic they can do in the next couple years is going to half the materials and production costs of a laptop.

    It looks like a decent bit of hardware, but don't count on it get

  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:35PM (#24882345) Homepage

    Editorializing from the headline, Roman Phalanx wrote

    Now that OLPC has decided to super size their systems to run Windows XP...

    There's nothing "super" about losing one's software freedom. The XO was originally an educational project where even the computer the kids learn on could be part of the lessons. Switching to proprietary software means placing barriers on that education by telling the user that there are some things you weren't meant to know and shall be forbidden from learning, sharing, or changing to suit your needs. There's nothing good about that for the user, whose concerns outrank any proprietor. It is not society's job to placate software proprietors. The free software movement welcomes businesses that treat us as partners, not as a market to exploit. The free software community certainly gives businesses lots to work with and make money from.

  • Sub-$100 (Score:5, Funny)

    by bogidu (300637) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:42PM (#24882409)

    Which is even MORE amazing since the dollar is worth HALF what it was 5 years ago!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jo7hs2 (884069)
      Well, since it is actually more like 75%, shouldn't we be talking about $150 laptops?
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @11:33PM (#24883605) Homepage

    MIPS CPUs are very simple to design, if you're willing to accept the limitation of one instruction per clock. I once met the entire design team for a midrange MIPS CPU, and it was six people. When you look at a picture of the silicon, you can barely find the instruction decode and execute logic; it's a tiny fraction of the chip.

    MIPS was overrun by the superscalar architectures, where you get more than one instruction per clock, at the cost of a huge increase in CPU logic complexity. The Pentium Pro design team was around 3000 people. (The Pentium II and III were basically Pentium Pro logic reworked for later fab processes.) It's amazing that x86 superscalar machines are even possible. (Think hard for a moment about what has to happen when you store into code just ahead of execution, which is fully supported by all x86 CPUs.) If you're willing to go superscalar, the simplicity goes away, and so does the advantage of the MIPS architecture.

    But if you're willing to accept one instruction per clock, and a 2X code bloat over x86 (making all the instructions the same length means the register-to-register instructions take more bytes than they need), it's a simple way to build a CPU.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dkf (304284)

      But if you're willing to accept one instruction per clock, and a 2X code bloat over x86 (making all the instructions the same length means the register-to-register instructions take more bytes than they need), it's a simple way to build a CPU.

      One of the main interesting things about RISC architectures is that all instructions are the same length, which means that the memory management circuitry can be much simpler. Variable length instructions add a lot of complexity. OTOH, what really got rid of the advantage of RISC was increased L1 cache sizes and the way that the memory bus didn't get faster nearly as quickly as CPUs did. (I know someone who designed a superscalar RISC processor, and the real complexity of going superscalar was dealing with

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by renoX (11677)

      >If you're willing to go superscalar, the simplicity goes away, and so does the advantage of the MIPS architecture.

      And so does *a part* of the advantage of the MIPS architecture: I bet than a superscalar MIPS is still much simpler than a superscalar x86..

      As for the second part, there is now a MIPS16 variant, so it's possible to have MIPS with 16/32 bit instructions, of course the decoder becomes more complex, but x86 instructions are still far more complicated (I can't remember what's the maximum size of

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