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The Year in Crowdfunded PCs: Who Succeeded? Who Failed? (zdnet.com) 52

Sean Portnoy, writing for ZDNet: The ever-maturing PC industry hasn't deterred manufacturers large and small from embracing crowdfunding as a method of bringing new systems to market, whether they need the funds to produce their new product, or just want to gain publicity and guarantee some upfront sales. Not every launch on Kickstarter or one of its rivals is a roaring success, but enough are to keep the campaigns coming. It was no different in 2017, as several companies offered new devices for crowdfunding, although some of them were clearly drawing inspiration from the past. That includes the Gemini, which answers the question: What would a PDA look like in a world filled with smartphones that have essentially replaced it? That answer is a clam-shell handheld with a physical keyboard, 5.99-inch screen, and Android and Linux dual-boot capability (along with built-in Wi-Fi and 4G option to keep up with the times).

As unlikely as you might think such a device would be attractive in a world of iPhones, tablets, Chromebooks, and other portables, the company behind the Gemini, UK startup Planet Computers, easily surpassed its campaign target on IndieGogo, raising over $1.1 million. Another tiny computer, the GPD Pocket, doesn't look all that different from the Gemini, though it doesn't try to market itself specifically as a PDA. Instead, parent company GamePad Digital (or GPD) defines it as a 7-inch Windows laptop, complete with 8GB of RAM, 128GB solid-state drive, and full HD touchscreen.
The list goes on.
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The Year in Crowdfunded PCs: Who Succeeded? Who Failed?

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  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @12:05PM (#55822235)
    GPD pocket is a nice idea, basically tablet designed for use with a keyboard. I find touchscreen typing or voice entry to be onerous, so this is a cool device. Only question is, will it run Ubuntu, or would I be stuck with Win 10 if I buy it? And I'm not in love with the nipple-mouse placement -- should be more central to the keyboard, not the very edge (IMHO).
    • by chill ( 34294 )

      It runs Ubuntu. Head over to Reddit /r/GPDPocket for details.

    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Thing is... the "GDP Pocket" isn't really different than all the other GDP pocket sized computers [amazon.com]. Far as I can tell, it was just using crowd funding as a marketing method.
    • Its a nice idea until you see the prices. $500 for the larger device and well over $300 for the pda.

      I was thinking for $99 and $129 for the pda and the 'mini laptop' would have been sensible price points.

      When you're starting to get into flagship phone price range for a gimped device that's 300% overpriced for what it is...

      • What you want is a netbook. They were $3-400 machines with an Intel Atom. E.g. I had one of these [cnet.com] with 2GB ram for a couple of years. The problem is that Chrome bloated to the point that it run like crap on an Atom and Windows slows down too for reasons that are a bit unclear.

        Of course people like Asus decided to stop promoting netbooks. That's not the same as stopping making them. E.g.

        https://www.newegg.com/Product... [newegg.com]

        $229 machine with an Intel Celeron N3350, 4GB Ram and 64GB of eMMC. The only difference b

        • I have an Eee, still works. Crucial thing is its footprint is a rat's knacker smaller than A4. This means shoulder bags designed to carry textbooks or school writing pads are just big enough. Go even a couple of inches bigger and you'll probably need a proper laptop case.

          • Well you can still get these

            https://www.newegg.com/Product... [newegg.com]

            Problem is look at the CPU

            https://ark.intel.com/products... [intel.com]

            A Cherry Trail Atom at 1.44 to 1.92 Ghz is going to be a bit underpowered even if all you want to do is run Chrome.

            Honestly I wouldn't buy anything with less than an i5 M - I don't even like the U series Core i5s. Of course that means that you're probably looking at a 13 inch machine.

      • I was thinking for $99 and $129 for the pda and the 'mini laptop' would have been sensible price points.

        Why on earth were you thinking that? A mini lapotp is hard to produce, and wouls certainly cost more than a bottom of the range "normal" laptop.

        When you're starting to get into flagship phone price range for a gimped device

        It's not a phone, and it's still cheap for all the the lowest end laptops. And how is it gimped? It sounds unlocked and can run stock linux (the palmtop one anyway).

  • The year in crowdfunded palmtops.

    There are no PCs involved in this article.

    Fail, fail.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      I donno, it's difficult to get more personal than a computer that one keeps on one's person, especially when it's not a phone or some other particular special-purpose device like a cell phone.

      • I donno, it's difficult to get more personal than a computer that one keeps on one's person, especially when it's not a phone or some other particular special-purpose device like a cell phone.

        My cell phone is a computer, and it is incredibly personal because it lives right next to my balls and is coated with my skin oil. However, it's still not what we mean when we say "personal computer", which is desktops and laptops.

        • And a couple decades ago it didn't mean laptops or "notebook" computers as they were commonly known either. It also was a term that Apple fanboys attempted to avoid because of its ubiquity with Intel/compatible computers running MS-DOS and Windows.

          My point is that back to the original meaning, it was a local computer that ran its own programs that wasn't operating in a multiuser capacity. It was the user's own personal computer. These modern devices do not appear to have the same cloud reliance as cell p

          • These modern devices do not appear to have the same cloud reliance as cell phones do,

            Who told you that cell phones are reliant on the cloud? I have a couple I use for totally non-cloudy tasks.

          • And a couple decades ago it didn't mean laptops or "notebook" computers as they were commonly known either. It also was a term that Apple fanboys attempted to avoid because of its ubiquity with Intel/compatible computers running MS-DOS and Windows.

            Leading to the joke

            Q) Now that Apple use Intel processors what's the difference between a Mac and a PC?
            A) About $300!

            The difference is more now of course, because you can only buy your RAM and SSD from Apple at purchase time. Yeah, I think I'll be replacing my 2012 Macbook Pro with a Wintel machine, probably from Asus, when it finally dies.

          • And a couple decades ago it didn't mean laptops or "notebook" computers as they were commonly known either.

            What? Yes, it did. The Apple ][ was a "personal computer".

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @12:16PM (#55822321)

    While they may had gotten crowd funded, it doesn't guarantee success in the long term.

    A lot of these designs seems to bring back a slightly updated version of an old design. Sometimes this works, but often it fails miserably. Because these nostalgic features that were removed, were often removed for a good reason. And the people who want this feature returned are such a small group that they cannot sell enough to keep the business going.

    Yes sometimes a winner will come out. But often with the change of technology the way we use it has changed as well. So such a nostalgic feature isn't as needed as we really thought it was.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      I suppose it depends if there's a killer app for the niche computer, where the niche computer doesn't have too many demerits to hamper its sales.

      I probably wouldn't go for this kind of device myself, as I carry an overly large cell phone (Kyocera Duraforce XD) and I pair it with a folding bluetooth keyboard with touchpad and a terminal shell for Anrdroid for when I need more than basic Android stuff, or else I use an actual laptop with a 13" screen as a small portable full-featured computer. On the other h

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      While they may had gotten crowd funded, it doesn't guarantee success in the long term.

      This is true. Remember that many of the crowd funded projects are projects where potential investors have already assessed the likelihood of success and found it too unlikely.
      When putting money into a crowdfunded project, this should be kept in mind. If you can say "I can afford to lose, but hey, it might just work", go for it. Just don't ever think it's a sure thing, or low risk.

  • ... when you can use other people’s money with no strings attached?

    • Bingo. I always wonder who are these people that give companies free money in exchange for nothing but risk?
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @01:51PM (#55823069)

    One project I've been watching (late as usual) is the Superbook (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andromium/the-superbook-turn-your-smartphone-into-a-laptop-f)
    It looks like a small laptop with a screen and keyboard but it has no brains. It uses your smartphone as the brains and more importantly, storage for all you stuff. It has a battery to charge your phone and run the Superbook.

  • Who succeeded? The charlatans who got the money.
    Who failed? The suckers who gave it to them.

    Next!

  • Damn it all, does the world *really* need more pocket-sized computers? I'm still waiting for modular, user-upgradeable large DTR laptop to appear. I'm so sick of having to upgrade entire machines, or use a desktop if I want to game (since I certainly can't afford a gaming DTR.)

    I understand that most people these days desire sleek, disposable ultrabook crap with soldiered CPUs and GPUs and disposable proprietary batteries, but surely I'm not the only one who'd love to seesomething like this? Doesn't anyone do LAN parties any more? It could use miniITX; hell, the thing could be half a foot think and use a standard ATX power supply and weigh 17 pounds for all I care, just as long as it has an integrated screen, cheap commodity battery (for UPS purposes only, not for sustained use) and keyboard (pref with user-swappable mechanical switches) and can be carried in a bag with one hand...

    Wish we had some sort of site to vote for crowdfunded things that no one has even proposed yet, just to demonstrate the interest.
    • There appear to be more of US then there are of you.

      It's just that simple. If the market really had demonstrated that a large number of people really wanted to swap out their CPUs (assuming they had any idea what they were) or add RAM (What? A truck?) or any of the other geeky things that tickle you, we'd see them.

      You are hiding in an incredibly small niche. That's fine and dandy, even potentially uplifting.

      But it's not profitable.

      • I know there's more of you than of us. I clearly acknowledged that. And yet, there are more Americans that dislike sushi than like it. But for some *curious* reason, there are still tons of Japanese restaurants around.

        It's just that simple. If the market really had demonstrated that a large number of people really wanted to swap out their CPUs (assuming they had any idea what they were) or add RAM (What? A truck?) or any of the other geeky things that tickle you, we'd see them.

        The GPU and battery are the major ones, of course.

        You are hiding in an incredibly small niche.

        1. Have you SEEN some of the niche-y shit that's succeeded on Kickstarter?

        2. Better yet: have you SEEN the kinds of crap keyboard enthusiasts get up to at places like Geekhack, Deskthority and Massdrop? Ludicrous custom keycaps, recreati

      • Also:

        If the market really had demonstrated that a large number of people really wanted to swap out their CPUs (assuming they had any idea what they were) or add RAM (What? A truck?) or any of the other geeky things that tickle you, we'd see them.

        "If people really wanted to have cameras in their phones, we'd have seen them by now"--ColdWetDog in 2001.

        It wouldn't be quite *that* popular but I'm almost positive PC gamers alone could make it profitable.

    • What you are looking for a is a "Lunchbox PC". Think of it as a small tower PC with a screen and foldout keyboard attached to the side. There are a few companies making them. As a very niche product they are expensive, and they are aimed more at industrial users who want something they can lug around with a bunch of hardware interface cards crammed inside of them, but I don't see any reason why one couldn't be made into a gaming PC if you wanted.

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