PC maker Everex has announced a low-cost Linux PC for the masses that it hopes will succeed where others have failed. The $198 price tag might help.
The Everex gPC will hit Wal-Mart shelves tomorrow and is designed to attract new PC users. Running on Ubuntu Linux 7.1, the gPC is a mini-tower system that comes with a Via C7-D low-power x86 clone running at 1.5Ghz but drawing only two watts of power. Under full load, the PC requires only 20 watts of power, a tenth of what most PCs use. The machine also comes with 512MB of memory, an 80GB hard drive and a CD-RW recorder.
“If you look at it by Vista standards, it seems bottom of the barrel,” said Paul Kim, director of marketing for Everex. “But running in the Linux environment — it’s pretty powerful.”
The gPC’s user interface called Enlightenment, which replaces the more comprehensive Compiz Fusion UI — a standard in Ubuntu Linux. Enlightenment’s developer, gOS, is behind the gPC’s OS, also called gOS.
The gOS has a distinctly Mac OS-like look to it, which isn’t too surprising as gOS founder David Liu is a Mac fan, but there were some things he didn’t like about it. “On the developer side it’s closed, and on the end-user side it’s not affordable. So we wanted something inspired by Mac OS in look and feel and ease of use but centered around the Google apps family,” he told InternetNews.com.
The gPC comes loaded with Google’s suite of applications, such as Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Calendar, Google Product Search, Google Blogger, YouTube, Google Maps, and Google News. Other free apps include Meebo for instant messaging, GIMP for image editing, Firefox, Xing Movie Player, RhythmBox, an iTunes substitute, Facebook, Skype and OpenOffice.org 2.2.
“In the Linux community, your standard distribution may or may not have all the apps you need, and most Linux people are savvy enough to go online and get what they need. We recognize most users are not savvy enough to get all that stuff and install it,” said Liu.
There have been previous attempts at low-cost Linux PCs for the masses, such as Linspire, but they failed to make a sizable dent in the market (although Linspire was hamstrung by a protracted legal fight with Microsoft that had nothing to do with the product).
Liu thinks gPC can succeed by making the system easy for beginner or inexperienced PC users.
“Our target is first-time users and someone who wanted a simple experience,” he said. Everex tried to anticipate as much consumer need as possible in loading all of the free software on the computer. “There is some value to integration. We want the out-of-box experience to be as seamless as possible.
Kim added that while the Google name and logo are used, this is not a Google-endorsed product. While it’s full of Google apps, the goal of both companies was to create an out-of-the-box Web 2.0 experience, he said.
Whether the gPC will have luck in Wal-Mart when other efforts have failed remains to be seen. IDC analyst Richard Shim isn’t so sure about the U.S. market but said overseas presents a better opportunity. “In this market there are already established players and they are likely to move into that space as the market becomes more commoditized,” he told InternetNews.com.
For instance, Dell, a much bigger player than Everex, is also in Wal-Mart with a $359 computer that has sold well. Shim said Everex is better off looking in other markets than competing against Dell.
“If you go somewhere with lower penetration rates, there’s more opportunity, both from lower expectations from the customers and from a lower market penetration standpoint.”