Intel’s INTC -1.2% generated some positive noise at this year’s CES with their 5th Generation Broadwell processors (one of which ships inside the new Dell XPS laptop and contributes to its touted 15 hours of battery life), but one fascinating product seems to be flying a bit under the radar: The “Intel Compute Stick,” a 4-inch long dongle that turns any HDMI display into a Windows 8.1 or Linux machine.
Sure, we have an assortment of boxes and solutions like Roku, Fire TV Stick, or Chromecasts to transform our TV into media players, but what if you wanted to transform your TV into a full-blown Windows 8.1 machine? That’s effectively what the Intel Compute Stick is offering for $149 with Windows 8.1 included, or $89 for a Linux version running Ubuntu.
What’s crammed into the (I do hope there’s a name change before launching in March) Compute Stick ? An Intel Atom quad-core CPU, Windows 8.1, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot to extend that capacity, Bluetooth 4.0, Wireless 802.11b/g/n connectivity, and a full-size USB port.
As you can tell by the specs, this little gadget enables a traditional — if somewhat scaled back — computing experience, not merely media streaming functionality. It can run all Windows 8.1 apps. You can browse the web and send emails via the TV in your hotel. Businesses could use it as a very inexpensive thin client, and I could envision certain libraries enjoying its functionality. If you’re entertaining the thought of building a media server for your home, Intel’s stick would allow you to consume that content on any HDMI-enabled display in your home.
The point is that it has enough potential to make it a viable option for a range of demographics and usage scenarios.
Add something like Logitech’s K400 Wireless Keyboard and Touchpad combo for $19.99 (I’m using this with my Alienware Alpha) and you have an entry-level, highly portable PC-on-a-stick for a grand total of $169.
For the more adventurous or frugal, the Linux version of Intel’s Compute Stick will run Ubuntu for $89, and ship with 8GB of storage and 1GB of memory.
As someone who’s always imagining what the 2nd or 3rd generation of a product might look like, I can’t wait to see how this little stick evolves. As it stands out of the gate, it might put the hurt on traditional Smart TVs.
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