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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 21st year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Another Aardvark prediction for 2013 comes true

18 January 2013

Wow, yet another of my predictions for 2013 seems to be coming true.

You'll recall that in my first column of the year, I predicted:

"Whereas we've been encouraged to "think big(ger)" for year after year, as the hardware and software vendors try to encourage us to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade -- I think that this year it might be more of a "think small" time.

With the growth in acceptance of "small" devices such as smartphones and tablets, I'm thinking that a lot of the movement will be in the area of computers you can hold or put in your pocket"

And then, just yesterday, this news.

Woohoo... Aardvark's predictions are now 2 for 2 and it's only the third week in January!

So what will this little USB-sized piece of computing power do to the market?

And, while others are focused on bigger better screens, newer OSes with different interfaces and attempts to get you to buy into their online marketplaces -- why does Dell's offering stand out as being so very different?

Well for a start, the projected price is just $50.

Sure, that's more than a Raspberry Pi - but this isn't some bare-board geek-piece, it's a piece of consumer-electronics that (they claim) will run as fast as a regular PC and do cool stuff -- such as turning your dumb TV set into a smart one.

Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth means that it can immediately use a host of already available peripherals while also relying on The Cloud for storage and access to media or other data. No farting around connecting WiFi cards, modems, cabled mice or keyboards -- which makes this a far easier option for 99% of the computer-using public.

Details are still sketchy at this early stage but there's talk of the device working with most mainstream OSes -- okay, that's perhaps not quite true. In the linked article it *actually* says "Ophelia, a USB-size self-contained computer, can provide access to virtually every major operating system there is -- from the Mac OS, to Windows, to Google’s Chrome OS" (the bolding is mine).

Another story on Arstechnica clarifies the situation though, pointing out that the stick actually runs Android but will "power virtual instances of other desktop operating systems on a remote server or in the cloud" so it's simply acting as a thin client in such cases. Never the less, this could be an exciting concept, effectively delivering *real* computer performance, despite the relatively low powered CPU in the stick itself.

At $50, this would be an excellent value-point -- however, watch for the hooks!

In order to use your Ophelia as a thin client for some more powerful virtual machine, you'll almost certainly have to pay a monthly stipend to Dell.

I'm also picking that this system will also be released alongside some kind of "Dell marketplace", similar to the Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offerings. Hardware manufacturers and software vendors are already learning that the best way to make money is not to try and sell new versions of their wares every year -- but to use their core products to create a much more consistent revenue stream -- by connecting users to products through a marketplace. Every time something is sold, they get to clip the ticket, whether the customer is using the latest version of their products or not.

Dell has obviously figured out that if they don't embrace the marketplace concept, they'll get left behind so they're producing this uber-cheap computer to gain some "ownership" of their customers.

So let's see... that's my prediction about new display technology come true and now my prediction about the focus on smaller devices. Hmmm.. perhaps I ought to go buy a lotto ticket now, while I'm on a roll :-)

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