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Samsung at work on $200 ‘disposable’ PC

Era of ten-PC households fast approaching

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Samsung plans to use Intel's upcoming system-on-a-chip silicon to produce what it reckons will be the first disposable PC, coming in at a price -- under $200 -- that makes upgrading unnecessary. "At an under-$200 price point, the PC has no need to be upgraded -- it will simply be replaced," Bob Eminian, VP of marketing at Samsung's US-based Samsung Semiconductor subsidiary, told Electronics Buyers' News. In other words, Samsung is attempting to revive the early 80s' home computer. The only snag is that that's precisely what Sony is doing with the PlayStation 2, a system that's likely to be way more powerful than any Wintel kit Samsung can come up with. Samsung's scheme has its sub-$200 (ie. $199) PC shipping in time for Christmas 2001. It's likely to be based on Intel's Timna CPU, which combines key PC components -- CPU, memory manager, north bridge, I/O and 3D graphics -- on a single sliver of silicon. Eminian said the Samsung machine's chip would be like Timna, though he wouldn't say whether Intel will indeed supply the PC's CPU. Timna itself is due to be released in the middle of the year. To make sure users don't take Samsung's word for it that its PC is too inexpensive to upgrade, the unit will apparently be completely sealed ('Removing this sticker invalidates your warranty' labels being no longer sufficient, it seems). Samsung PC sits right in the blurred area between games console, information appliance, network computer and full-scale PC, and neatly shows how all these devices, each predicted to be the future of desktop computing, are essentially the same thing. What, after all, is the difference between a $200 information appliance used to access the Net and a $999 iMac used to access the Net? Answer: nothing but the price. Equally, there's no difference between a $400 Sun NC that's too basic, hardware-wise, to bother fixing when it goes wrong and a $200 PC that's so cheap that there's no need to bother fixing when it goes wrong. So the important question won't be whether a device based on a chip like Timna can compete with something like the PlayStation 2, which is said to out-perform Pentium III-class machines, but whether users will be willing to buy multiple machines for different tasks. So, while you might use your PSX 2 for home entertainment, you can also use your Samsung for email and personal productivity stuff. And at $200 a pop, why buy a single PC for $500 when you can have two for $400? ®

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