Doomed – Intel’s New Linux Compute Stick

Is it just me or are we all agreed that Intel’s new Linux Compute Stick is a piece of junk that has no hope of success.

Touting the Compute Stick in hyperbolic terms as a “New Mini-Computing Paradigm,” Intel describes it as a “pocket-sized computer delivering an entry computer experience by plugging directly into the HDMI input of TVs and monitors.”

At first glance, $110 for a computer on a HDMI dongle might seem like a no-brainer (although $11 higher than original price of $99).

But let’s look at the Linux Compute Stick’s configuration:
* 8GB storage (of which I suspect a lot will be taken up by the Linux operating system)
* Wireless 802.11 b/g/n
* Bluetooth 4.0
* Quad core Atom processor
* miniUSB
* microSD

You’ll agree that the specs are a mix of good (WiFi, Bluetooth) and bad (storage).

Since you have to bring your own display (TV or monitor with HDMI input), keyboard and mouse, that adds at least another $100-$120 to the cost.

So your $120 Linux Compute Stick is actually a $210-$230 Linux PC. Unless, of course, you’re just plugging the Linux Compute Stick into your TV.

But if your TV has just two HDMI slots (like mine does and both are occupied), then you’re in trouble. On my Samsung LCD TV, one of my HDMI inputs is taken by the Roku box and the other by the home entertainment system.

Some media accounts say the Linux distro on the Compute Stick is Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS (Trusty Tahr).

Now if the post installation size of Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS is indeed 6.3GB as some on the Ubuntu forums say, then there’s very little space left on the Compute Stick for other applications or storing your files, documents, video and audio. You will be forced to store your files on the microSD card (not a safe prospect).

Target Market

Intel is pitching the Compute Stick at all and sundry – Consumers, Businesses and Educational institutions.

For consumers, Intel is positioning the Compute Stick as an entry computer for working with productivity apps, reading and composing e-mail, browsing the web and streaming content.

Anyone see a resemblance to the old WebTV thingie from the 1990s?

Intel says the Compute Stick can also be used as an education system, as a thin client, in kiosks, as POS devices in retail and other lightly embedded applications.

In short, Intel thinks the Compute Stick is for most of the things we do with a desktop PC or notebook and more.

Dead on Arrival

After having dicked around with Ubuntu and its spawns like Linux Mint over the last 12 months, I can assure you that 1GB of RAM is definitely not enough.

I’m not sure if the Compute Stick is memory upgradeable. And if it is, boosting its memory to what I consider the minimum for a computer i.e. 4GB will further increase its price.

Even more aggravating is the measly storage of 2GB or 3GB available to the user after accounting for system files. Just pitiful. With flash storage prices in free fall, it should have come with at least 32GB of storage.

I predict that Intel’s Linux Compute Stick will be a total disaster with consumers.

Since the great streaming behemoth Netflix as well as tons of other options are already available to most TVs (either built-into smart TVs or through devices like Roku or xBox), I don’t see people standing in line to buy the Linux Compute Stick for their entertainment fix.

Also, the average consumer is unlikely to pick a Linux Compute Stick. Linux is still largely the domain of techies and medium to large business.

Nor do I expect businesses to develop any great love for this junk since it’s grossly underpowered and has no unique applications vis-a-vis rivals like iPad (popular at cafes and other retail checkouts as a POS device).

Count me among the surprised if Intel sells even a thousand units of this sucker.

(Intel is also offering a Windows version of Compute Stick with Windows 8.1 on it. But I will not discuss it since Windows 8.1 is not designed for those who wish to live in the realm of sanity.)

Both the Linux and Windows 8.1 Compute Sticks should start shipping later this month.

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