One Taiwanese computer maker has come up with a novel way to camouflage a computer made for your living room: give it the shape and color of a Ming Dynasty vase.
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) put the small blue and white vase-shaped computer on display by a large-screen LCD TV at Computex Taipei 2009, to the effect that it really looked like Chinese art work rather than a gadget.
Inside the shapely plastic covering is a home media computer complete with a Blu-ray Disc player offering full 1080p high-definition video quality. The device has an Intel Atom N230 microprocessor inside alongside Nvidia Ion graphics chips and a 2.5-inch hard disc drive. The bottom of the vase reveals plugs for an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable and USB ports.
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The vase rests on a traditional Chinese wooden stand, hiding the cables. ECS representatives said they used Intel Atom microprocessors to keep the device small. It's about the size of a 2-liter soft-drink bottle.
The real purpose of the vase becomes clear only when the disc tray pops out, or if you look closely at the top, where the power button is, or the bottom, where the cables connect. A few other details give away the device if you look closely, including creases on sides where the case fits together, and of course the fact that it's made of plastic, not porcelain.
ECS is offering the device for sale to global customers, including PC vendors and stores. The company is a contract manufacturer so it won't market the product itself.
Company representatives said the vase exterior can be colored any way a customer wants, so the Ming Dynasty blue and white can be exchanged for other colors and styles such as ancient Greek or Roman, for example.
The Ming Dynasty was an era in China from the 1300s to the 1600s in which porcelain production flourished, giving rise to the use of the term "China" in the West as a reference to fine porcelain. Blue and white vases in the Ming Dynasty style are popular art objects.