A US company has announced a Linux-based mini-desktop that it claims consumes just 2W of power at maximum usage, 97 percent less than typical desktops.

Priced at $249 (£150) in the US, the CherryPal mini-desktop includes a Freescale processor running at 400MHz, 256MB of RAM and 4GB of internal flash storage. It comes with the OpenOffice suite and the Firefox web browser. By comparison, Asus Eee PC mini-laptops have at least an 800GHz Intel Celeron processor, 512MB of RAM and 2GB of flash storage.

Users have the option to store data online, a concept known as 'cloud' storage, and access it from any device, including mobile phones. Online storage capacity of 50GB will be provided at no extra cost, according to the company.

The system weighs 0.3kg and runs an embedded version of Debian Linux. It will not come with Windows, according to the company, and doesn't include a monitor or keyboard.

It is initially targeted at universities and students, but it will also be available for users to buy online, said Max Seybold, CEO of CherryPal. The mini-desktop not only conserves energy but takes up little desk space compared with desktops or laptops of the usual size, Seybold said.

Compared with normal desktops, the CherryPal can save $35 (£18) per year in energy costs in the US if used eight hours per day, Kanellos said. It may have an even bigger benefit to users in some developing countries, where average incomes are lower and power is more scarce, Kanellos said.

Many companies, including Samsung, Sun and OQO, have floated plans to sell similar mini-desktops but scrapped their ideas after audiences didn't buy into them. People are used to conventional computers, and CherryPal is trying to sell not just a limited-capability desktop, but a new concept, Kanellos said.

"In the last 15 years, these things have come and gone. It's going to be an uphill climb" for CherryPal, Kanellos said. Even if CherryPal succeeds, nothing will stop PC vendors, and retreads like Samsung could re-enter the market, Kanellos said.

Seybold said the company is trying to educate the market about the concept of low-cost computing, and the success of low-cost, Linux-based laptops such as the Eee PC is helping.

The company is also trying to educate the market on cloud computing, which people have been slow to adopt, Seybold said. Users originally didn't like the idea of data residing anywhere else other than on the local hard drive, but that is changing, he said. It took a while for people to latch on to cloud concepts such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail with email messages stored on external servers, Seybold said.

The system will begin shipping in the US later this month, Seybold said.

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