CES: Marvell sees fleet of Plug Computer-based products coming

Products based on Marvell's concept remain scarce (see the Plug Computer 3.0 below)

Marvell Technology Group Ltd. today showed off a new version of its tiny, green Plug Computer that boasts a much faster CPU.

Actual shipping products based around Marvell's concept remain scarce for now. But the company, which hopes to profit by selling the silicon guts to vendors building Plug Computer-based products, is expecting "very fast momentum," says Simon Milner, vice president and general manager of Marvell's enterprise business unit.

"We could foreseeably see 20 to 30 companies shipping more than 100 products in the next six months," Milner said. Those could retail for as little as $49.

The Plug Computer 3.0, announced Tuesday by Marvell, uses a 2.0GHz Armada 300 processor; the first two versions used a 1.2GHz chip. The new processor remains ARM-compatible, while adding built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networking.

The new Plug Computer also comes with 2GB of flash memory for storage and 1 GB of system memory. It maintains its petite size -- about the size of an iPhone -- and low power draw (3 watts).

Marvell initially touted the Plug Computer as a petite, easy-to-use home server. Milner said that media streaming to laptops or smartphones will likely be a popular use of a Plug Computer. It could also be used for home security or home health care technology, he said. For instance, one partner is testing the Plug Computer as a way to monitor the activity and safety of Parkinsons Disease patients who are connected via a Bluetooth-transmitting accelerometer, he said.

The Plug Computer can be rolled out as a single-use appliance, or as an open server upon which many applications can be loaded.

"Just like the iPhone has an app store, the Plug Computer could become the app store for the rest of your life," he said.

Telecommunications service providers and utility companies would favor the latter approach. Milner says Marvell is talking to just such companies.

The announcement comes as CES ramps up in Las Vegas. The show opens officially on Thursday.

Marvell's Plug Computer 3.0
Marvell's Plug Computer 3.0 uses a 2.0GHz Armada 300 processor.

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld. Follow Eric on Twitter @ericylai, send e-mail at elai@computerworld.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

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