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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Weighing Down the Cloud

An American company puts out the first desktop computers designed to run Chrome OS, an operating system synonymous with laptops and mobility.

  • June 1, 2011

The cloud just got an anchor. We think of the cloud, and Google’s Chrome operating system, as something for the laptop set—the reduced need for storage allows us to travel light. But a Salk Lake City company, Xi3 Corporation just announced the world’s first desktop computer made to run Chrome OS.

ChromiumPC is a “modular computer,” a phrase Xi3 has pushed. What this means is that the ChromiumPC is housed in an aluminum chassis that contains three small, connected boards. First, there’s the processor module, which takes care of the microprocessor and RAM. Then, there’s a primary I/O module, which holds the majority of the external communications ports. Third, there’s a secondary I/O module, which has Ethernet, video, and power connections.

That set-up is pretty standard, actually. But since ChromiumPC is built with openness in mind, you’re free to swap out one of the I/O modules to replace it with a new one that you take a greater liking to. (There’s a simple-enough 8-step process to get it done.) This means that while ChromiumPC is being plugged as a Chrome OS device, you can really use any open-source OS you like. “The Xi3 Computer Architecture is designed to support any x86-based operating system, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and other open source-based operating systems,” said Jason Sullivan, Xi3 CEO in a press release. “If someone chooses to switch their ChromiumPC to run a different operating system, it’s as easy as swapping out one of the three boards inside the computer.” ChromiumPC says its open architecture will allow its users to fundamentally change the “personality” of the device.

Xi3 actually debuted an earlier version of the concept last year, and the price was reported at $850. But the more recently announced version made for Chrome OS doesn’t have a price attached publicly, yet.

ChromiumPC goes on sale on the 4th of July. Why’s that? Since the Xi3 Computer Architecture allows owners of the Xi3 Modular Computer to declare their independence from the built-in obsolescence of other computers,” said CEO Jason Sullivan in the release, “we felt that American Independence Day would be a great day to begin selling the 5 Series model of the Xi3 Modular Computer.” It’s a colorful idea, if a tad self-important.

One thing the ChromiumPC won’t be liberating you from, of course, is your desk. For that, you might sooner go with one of the Chrome OS laptops from Samsung that recently made their debut at an event in San Francisco.

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