Maybe people are bored with Apple and Windows machines, or just restless for the challenge of something new. But different is selling.
A reseller that on Monday began offering a $25 version of Raspberry Pi Linux PC in the U.S. -- with 256 MB of RAM, a 700MHz ARM processor, USB port and no case -- seems to be doing well with them. It began selling in Europe last year.
There were some reports that the supply was exhausted, but the U.S. distributor of the lower cost version, Allied Electronics, said that as of Tuesday afternoon it had 46 in stock, and anticipated delivery of 200 units later this week, a representative said by email. The company didn't disclose how many were initially in stock.
Eben Upton, executive director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, finds the brisk sales gratifying. "I think the interest in the Model A is very encouraging," Upton said. "Nearly two years ago we promised people a $25 computer, and it feels great to have finally fulfilled that promise."
Also available, for $35, is a Raspberry Pi unit model B, with about double the RAM, two USB ports and an Ethernet port. The vendor Newark has the B model, and they are on order at Allied.
The credit card-sized Raspberry Pi is seen as a low-cost desktop replacement that can run multiple flavors of Linux. It may have adaptations beyond.
Raspberry isn't going to shake up the PC market, at least not immediately. Google's Chromebooks, another alternative OS, have a better chance.
The $249 Samsung Chromebook, the model with Wi-Fi, has been sitting on the top of Amazon.com's best sellers in laptop computers for weeks.
Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, believes consumers are becoming more comfortable working in multi-OS environments, and willing to try new system approaches.
"People have become more adept at what I call technologically multilingual," said King. Today someone may have an iPhone, iPad and MacBook at home, and use a Windows machine and BlackBerry at work.
"As those product and technology barriers break down and people become more comfortable in a multi-UI world, I think it is going to lead to opportunities for alternative platforms," said King.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation sets out an altruistic agenda for the system. It sees many uses, including as a way of providing students with the means to learn the fundamentals of a system, in much the same way an earlier generation did on a Commodore 64.
The system, which is made available through licensed manufacturing agreements, is also getting interest in developing countries that need low-cost compute power.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.