With the Asus Eee Box
and Dell Studio Hybrid
already whetting our appetites for cheap, mini desktops, it was only a matter of time before someone took the concept to the next level.
TechNovus Corp is touting its Nova Navigator as a “cloud computer” – there’s no hard drive inside, an Intel Atom 1.6Ghz, and a browser running on a Linux desktop.
Unlike the Eee Box
or Studio Hybrid
, the Nova Navigator runs just about everything bar the browser via the Web. Apps sit on a remote server – you pay a monthly subscription (around $20), which gives you 50GB of online storage and access to the Nova App Store for things like Office and Windows.
While the concept isn’t new, the demo certainly had us wondering about the possibilities – the Nova runs Windows (Server) and Suse Linux side by side fairly smoothly (though we didn't see any intensive apps running), which is no mean feat for a 1.6Gz single core CPU. And all without emulation or the other tricks needed on a faster “real” PC.
The main menu of the Navigator show a list of “core” apps, including Firefox, Skype, and a media player. Online apps delivered via the Web (such as Microsoft Office), are shown in a separate feed. We also spotted what looks suspiciously like an advertising bar on the bottom of the screen.
As well as the 50GB of online storage, the machine has UBS ports, so it’s possible to plug in a portable USB hard drive to store music, photos and video.
Unlike the Eee Box, which runs apps off hard disk, the real test for the Nova will be how much speed is needed to run all these apps over the Web. TechNovus’ rep Suhit Anantula tells us the ideal connections speed is 1Mbps, though it will work over a 512Kbps line.
|The Nova Navigator cloud computer|
The Nova also raises the question of when Microsoft start switching to time-based licenses to popular apps like Microsoft Office. On the Nova App Store you can buy 30-day or 60-day licenses to Microsoft Office software, something apparently available in India where the Nova is being launched first, but something Anantula says is “negotiating” with Microsoft in Australia.
Interestingly, TechNovus is pushing “no viruses, no spyware and no maintenance” in the marketing pitch for the Nova (their words, not ours).
The launch date being discussed for the Nova is next month, and while pricing is yet to be confirmed, we’re told to expect a ballpark figure of $199 for the Navigator box, plus a monthly subscription possibly around $15 to $20 per month.
|The Nova menu, showing SUSE Linux and Windows Server buttons|
While TechNovus is selling the box with the online apps, we wonder why this wouldn’t be something Asus Eee Box users could also plug into. Why not make it available for any cheap Atom machine, like the Dell Inspiron Mini 9
notebook, which comes with 5GB of online storage?
The concept makes sense – if you’re buying a cheap Atom desktop or second notebook to browse the web and send email, you might as well go the whole hog and run everything online, right?
Maybe the time is right for thin client PCs like this to go mainstream?