Miniature Linux Computers Are Emerging As 2012 Highlights

by Ostatic Staff - May. 31, 2012

As we head toward the mid-point of 2012, it's clear that one of the biggest open source stories of all is the proliferation of diminutive, inexpensive Linux-based computers at some of the smallest form factors ever seen. The tiny $25 Linux computer dubbed Raspberry Pi (shown here) has grabbed many headlines on this front, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently pledged to give some of the units to U.K. schools along with training for teachers who can pass on Linux knowledge to kids. But the Raspberry Pi is only one of many tiny LInux computers being heralded as part of a new "Linux punk ethic."

As TechNewsWorld reports, when it comes to diminutive "post PC era" devices:

"...We've got the Raspberry Pi, we've got the Cotton Candy. Add to those the Mele A1000, the VIA APC, the MK802 and more, and it's becoming increasingly difficult not to compute like a Lilliputian."

The same report notes that Linux bloggers are picking up on this trend toward the tiny. "I believe that the medley of tiny Linux PCs we're seeing hitting the market lately is the true sign of the Post PC Era," writes Google+ blogger Linux Rants.

We have yet to see what the long-term impact of tiny, cheap Linux-based devices may really be. Obviously, Google's Schmidt has picked up on the fact that they can introduce kids to valuable computer skills, but his effort is focused on getting Raspberry Pi units to kids in U.K. schools. Why can't they find their way to kids in poor regions of the world who might never have computers?

Trusted Reviews has come up with a collection of 10 places where Raspberry Pi might be headed. The editors imagine that Raspberry Pis might show up in "coding classrooms" where kids will experiment with it, and, since Raspberry Pis handle HD video, the credit card-sized devices might show up in very low-cost set-top boxes. The editors also forecast Raspberry Pi Internet Radio devices and in-car computers based on the gadgets.

Of all markets for the Raspberry Pi, the educational market is probably the most promising. Here, bulk orders of Raspberry Pis can keep its makers profitable, and kids can experiment with surprisingly high-powered computers at little costs to their school systems.

Let's hope that moves like Schmidt's are followed by larger scale sponsorship of programs to put small, Linux devices in the hands of kids around the world. The problem with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) effort, which aimed for a $100 computer for kids everywhere, was that the program's backers never figured out how to crack the $100 barrier.

It's cracked now, big time. By the end of this year, we should see some of this come to fruition, and the Raspberry Pi isn't the only diminutive device to watch.