PC maker Cherrypal has done something Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child couldn't do: make a laptop that breaks the US$100 price barrier.
Cherrypal on Tuesday announced a no-frills laptop called Cherrypal Africa, which includes hardware usually found in smartphones. It can run the Linux or Windows CE operating systems, which are also found on cell phones.
Priced at $99, the laptop is targeted at those looking for an inexpensive PC to surf the Internet, said Max Seybold, founder of Cherrypal. It is a "no-thrills" laptop that could find an audience in developing countries and low-income groups in the Western world, he said
The laptop is well-equipped for Internet access with integrated wireless and wired networking, though the CPU is underwhelming compared to other small-sized netbooks designed to surf the Web. The hardware runs on a 400MHz CPU, much slower than Intel's Atom processors, which have clock speeds starting at 800MHz and ranging to 2GHz. Atom processors are found in most netbooks, which are priced starting at around $250.
Seybold recognizes the performance disparity between Africa and standard netbooks found on the market. "The Africa is slow, but works and is robust," he said.
There are people worldwide who need Internet access but can't afford netbooks, and the $99 price point may be attractive to them, he said. The Internet has become an essential tool for education and the company wants to make it easier for people worldwide to secure cheap hardware.
The laptop includes 256MB of RAM and a 2GB flash drive for data storage. It has a 7-inch color screen, integrated Wi-Fi b/g wireless networking, wired networking, one USB 2.0 port and two USB 1.1 ports. It also includes a microphone and a built-in speaker. It weighs around 1.2 kilograms and includes a lithium battery that provides the laptop a runtime of around four hours, according to Cherrypal.
The laptop can be bought from Cherrypal's online store. The product is available worldwide.
However, the company has had hardware delivery issues in the past. Cherrypal last year launched a Linux-based mini-desktop that consumed only 2 watts of power. However, the company failed to deliver the product on time, which raised questions about the PC's existence. After many delays and criticism from customers, the company started delivering the PCs.
Those were problems in the past, Seybold said. Those who order Cherrypal PCs will receive the product on time, he said.
"When we launched in July of 2008 we were sold out after only a couple of hours. It took us a while to get our supply chain and procurement process working. If somebody orders today they have the unit within two weeks, guaranteed," Seybold said.