Friday, August 10, 2007

A $99 PC?

The Zonbu is a small box that costs $99 plus a $13-per-month subscription for automatically updating all software and automatically synchronizing files with a secure online site. The computer runs Linux, but it works like Windows and has a host of useful software compatible with Microsoft Office. It comes with an email and calendar program (Evolution); the word processor, spreadsheet, presenter; a drawing program; and a database program. There is plenty more.

Reviews have been mixed. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal compared it price-wise to a Dell and concluded it wasn't a better deal. He also noted that you can't install your own software, the Linux software is rougher than the Windows software, and it was slow to perform some tasks. But others seem to like it. A Gizmodo article gives it a full rundown.

I liked it for its potential. A few of these could outfit a small office (or even big one) for very little money. With all that software loaded and updated automatically, along with a far smaller risk of viruses, this computer could eliminate many difficulties ordinary, non-techie, lawyers face in dealing with an office of complicated, difficult-to-maintain PCs. The software automatically backs up your files. So they are safe--in fact, they are all synched, so you can get them on any computer connected to the Internet. And Zonbu promises that files are secure--they are encrypted at your PC so you can feel confident that even Zonbu can't get at them if it wants to.

It lacks networking, but I expect at some point the company will see the benefit of selling many machines to an office, and even so there are other ways to accomplish that. There are plenty of other sites that handle shared files. Watch this device. If it adds a few features, it could be an alternative to a standard office suite.


Bam4700 said...

Good post, and I agree. Lawyers need low maintenance machines and in terms of applications, not much is needed. As long as it has email and word processing (it does, of course), you've met the needs of about 90% of attorneys. The auto-backup feature probably pays for the machine itself since you don't need to worry about an IT staff handling backup tapes/servers. Law firms should keep an eye on this computing model.

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