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Fujitsu Siemens turning off life support for old folks PC plan

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CeBIT Fujitsu Siemens has pulled the plug on its efforts to push a locked down Linux box at older customers.

But the German-based PC vendor said it will continue to explore other options to ensure older customers are not buried at the bottom of the digital divide.

Fujitsu Siemens launched the Simplico in Germany 2006 to serve a market it felt had been ignored – older customers with little or no experience of digital technology. The Linux box had a set range of applications and offered minimal upgrade options, all in a bid to keep it as uncomplicated as possible.

Talking at CeBIT this week, Fujitsu Siemens CTO Joseph Reger admitted the effort "was not really successful".

The main problem, he said, was support. While Fujitsu Siemens had produced a locked down Linux box with a fixed set of apps in an effort to keep cost and complexity to a minimum, older folks tended to look to younger relatives for help – and the youth tended to be Windows-grown.

Also, a locked down box presented problems with file formats and other software, eg codecs, changing so rapidly, though this was less of a problem with digital photography which was a major interest for older customers.

The company was looking at other ways of serving this market, he said, and one possibility was a hosted solution or a tie-up with a telco. However, he said, this presented its own challenges, as telcos were not always support driven.

Either way, Reger said the company was not prepared to turn its back on older citizens, saying they risked becoming increasingly isolated if they were not given a way of getting online: "It's not like the grandchildren write letters to grandpa and grandma anymore." ®

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