Mr. Zonbu makes his entrance

Hello everyone,

I recently read an article about a new silicon valley company called “Zonbu” who is selling a low cost/low power PC that they are positioning as an environmentally friendly desktop PC replacement. You can find their website here:

Zonbu Mini-PC

I was intrigued. I think the green thing is seriously overplayed, but saving power always helps. In my neck of the woods I pay almost $.40 per kilowatt/hour so I’m probably a bit more motivated than most…

I watched a few YouTube videos, read a few reviews, listened to Chris Prillo prattle on excitedly about it as he unboxed and set up his trial unit (you can watch the video here) and decided to order one to see what all the hype is about.

Now, to be fair, I should mention I work in the broadband business and have exposure to a very wide variety of end users on a daily basis so I probably have a better idea than most about what the average broadband home user does and what hurdles they run in to. In fact, over the past few years I’ve been involved in a number of initiatives that have resulted in a significant reduction in our call volumes by introducing various solutions to help limit the impact of spyware and viruses on the network. Needless to say, a semi “locked down” but fully functioning Internet ready PC has its appeal.

Like many of you reading this, I also have various family members whose PCs I get called on to support. I was amused to read that Zonbu’s founder was motivated to pursue this particular project because he found it difficult to support his father’s windows PC (back in France) remotely from the US. It got me thinking, I should try this thing out and see if it really is a viable option. Which then got me thinking… What do I really use my home PC for? But more on that later..

Since this is 2007 and we live in a 24/7 reality TV, blog about it, nothing is private, “google is indexing the contents of your underwear drawer as you read this” world, I thought I might as well throw my hat in the ring and tell you if it really is suitable to replace a low end desktop PC used primarily for Internet access. Besides, if this lady can draw an audience and make a name for herself by being attractive and unpacking electronics at her kitchen table then I can probably at least elicit a few snickers…

What follows in this blog is my experience with the Zonbu, from ordering it, to musings while I await delivery, to installing it and attempting to use it for virtually all my daily computing tasks for at least a month. I’m not going to dissect the hardware (which isn’t really unique to Zonbu anyway – more on that later), or analyze the various apps, or get religious about the flavour of linux it runs or the apps available on it natively. I’m going to plug it in, hook it up, and tell you what happens.

Oh, and don’t be alarmed if you do come home from a movie Tuesday night and find two college kids in a Google Beetle are rifling through your underwear drawer with a flashlight and a digital camera. I wasn’t kidding…

-Mr. Zonbu


4 Responses to Mr. Zonbu makes his entrance

  1. marcos says:

    Interesting concept. Interesting take on the concept, coming from your particular experiences and needs. Like the iPhone, this is a thin client. A rich client/thin client, no doubt, but it’s conceptual basis is as a thin client. And computing has been moving in this direction for a while now; Larry Ellison is a man ahead of his time and should be cryogenically frozen. (Well, probably he should be regardless, but that’s another matter.)

    One point that I would question is your contention that it is semi-locked down. Is it locked down in the same way that the Tivo is? If/when the apps move to GPL 3, what effect will this have on the lock down? (As you might already know, it’s very doubtful that Linux will move to the GPL 3.)

    I’m just curious as to how you would address these issues should your business adopt the Zonbu.

    Anyway, the emerging thin client/internet cloud server model is very interesting to me, and I see it as the next disruptive technology. (Furthermore, I think the ideologically driven FSF is missing the boat, while the less ideological and more loosely organized OSS community is positioned perfectly. Market based anarcho-syndicalism will win over top down communism.)

  2. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks for the advice on taking the zonbu to Cambodia. Given that the broadband connectin there can be shakey, I’m wondering if I should make room in my suitcase.

    Anyway, great to discover your blog

  3. There are two schools in PC industry – 1.) Some one is trying to make the hardware cheaper 2.) Some one is trying to make the hardware more powerful and more functional. The Cheap is good school is using Linux as a tool. The newest EEE PC or GOS PC are the two examples. What ZonBu has hit is the long term use of any computer. The monthly fee is reasonable for not only giving us a hardware to use, it also gives us plenty of on line storage, use of free software, upkeep of the system, and etc. etc. Apple’s .Mac charges $100 a year for 10 GB storage.

    Zonbu should borrow a page from .Mac membership though. They need to make the experience of using ZonBu similar to using .Mac.

    Way to go, ZonBu…

  4. Gene Keyes says:

    Hi Mr. Z.,

    I just came across your interesting blog today, and have worked my way through the July archive. But I wonder if you could provide something like a runnning one-page synopsis of the key points, from start to present? TIA.

    –Gene Keyes

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