Kiwi PC: A Desktop Designed Just for Seniors

It's tough raising parents (and grandparents) these days. They want to be online, to surf the Web and send e-mail, but some just can't get the knack of using Windows. Others are constantly getting stung by spyware and viruses.

Enter the Kiwi PC, a Linux-powered desktop designed especially for seniors. It features a color-coded keyboard, a 19-inch monitor, a simplified interface, and, perhaps best of all, toll-free phone support that's available 24/7.

The system's specs aren't great, but they're probably sufficient given the intended audience. A mini-desktop case houses a 1.66GHz Atom processor (same as what you find in many netbooks), 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and a DVD burner. There's no Wi-Fi adapter, so you'll need to set up a wired connection to the router or broadband modem.

Kiwi supplies a customized version of Ubuntu Linux 10.10 (which has much lower system requirements than Windows, and therefore can run at a decent clip on the system's modest hardware). An oversized, visual toolbar provides quick and easy access to things like the Web, e-mail, chat, and social networks. Here's a bit more explanation from the company's site:

The preinstalled "Evolution Mail" on KiWi PC allows users to integrate their Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN, AOL or any other email accounts making chatting and emailing a snap. Additionally, the base operating system comes with a "Software Centre" which offers hundreds of free downloadable applications.

This reminds me a lot of the Jolicloud OS (which was recently renamed "Joli OS"), a Linux variant designed to run on netbooks. And because this is indeed a kind of Linux, the chances of any kind of malware trouble are tiny.

The Kiwi PC sells for $499.99, shipping included. That's pretty steep: You could buy similar hardware for hundreds of dollars less. Of course, it wouldn't have the senior-friendly operating system or the 24/7 support (which, ostensibly, is senior-friendly as well). Given that there's a 30-day money-back guarantee, this might be a worthwhile option for elderly and/or technology-challenged users.

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