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Buyers lining up for Raspberry Pi's $25 PC

Potential buyers hope to use the uncased $25 PC as a home-theater replacement and lightweight PC

By Agam Shah
February 9, 2012 10:54 AM ET

IDG News Service - Raspberry Pi Foundation's $25 PC will become available by the end of this month, and buyers hope it could fill in as a low-power desktop, while being an alternative to the more expensive open-source hardware.

The Raspberry Pi PC is an uncased motherboard the size of a credit card that is capable of running basic word processing and Internet applications. The computer has basic input, display and networking ports, and can run Linux flavors including Fedora, Debian and ArchLinux.

Technology enthusiasts have been lining up since the device was announced last May. Some want the PC as an inexpensive way to replace home-theater PCs or low-power Windows desktops for basic Internet and productivity applications. Some also hope to contribute to the goal of nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote programming among students.

The PC has a single-core ARM CPU running at 700MHz, up to 256MB of RAM and a graphics engine that is capable of playing high-definition video. The device can be powered by batteries or a microUSB port, and peripherals can be attached through a USB port. For $35, the PC will include features like an Ethernet port. However, the hardware pales in comparison to more expensive phones, tablets and PCs, which run more dynamic and demanding applications.

The device can run a broad range of applications, from robotics to aerospace to media streaming, said Eben Upton, executive director of Raspberry Pi Foundation. "I'm sure people are going to come up with some completely crazy stuff," Upton said.

Beyond the price, some buyers are attracted to Pi as a low-power media streaming device. The Pi's powerful graphics processor is capable of handling Blu-ray video, and can be connected to a high-definition TV through an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port.

"I plan on using the device as a home-theater PC to replace my older Atom nettop. I also plan on using another unit as a home file-web server. I never have to worry about powering the system down to conserve energy," said Brian Giguere, a Web developer and designer in Massachusetts.

Christian Wacker, a student at Concordia University in Nebraska, wants the Pi to be an affordable home-theater PC replacement.

"This is much, much cheaper than Google TV, and also much more power efficient than a full home-theater PC," Wacker said, adding that simple tasks like file sharing, network management, checking email and basic Internet usage would also be possible.

But the device is not a true PC replacement, Wacker said. The Pi's capabilities are also limited by the inability to run WINE, an emulator that allows Linux users to run Windows programs.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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