KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

Apr 3, 2013

Introducing children to computers is a very delicate process, and one that I do not look forward to when I am finally thrust into parenthood. On the one hand, any parent wants their children to be proficient with technology as well as use all the available resources to expand their imagination and knowledge of the world. But along with that comes the unbridled mature, or immature, corners of the internet where no parent wants their young child entering. Parental controls on modern machines are clumsy and fairly easy to circumvent for especially apt kids, and they generally get in the way of everyday functions when the children are not on the computer. Seeing as the PC market is dominated by Apple and Microsoft with no viable third option catering to parents it was only time before the borderless possibilities of Android came in and lent a hand.

This week’s KickStarter Spotlight focuses on an ambitious, and impressively polished product that is squarely aimed at parents who are concerned about their child’s computer usage called MiiPC. It is not so much the content as the amount of time wasted that most parents worry about, and it is a fact that technology can be a major distraction for young people with homework. I can attest that even in the course of writing this post, I have looked away to a USA Today update and watched a few YouTube videos that were sent to me by a few Facebook friends. What MiiPC aims to deliver is a computer that, in all honesty, is not much more than a converted, overpowered tablet in a box. The main feature is the complete control parents have over the device. From setting time restrictions on apps or websites, to monitoring exactly what activity a user is doing at any time; MiiPC allows a parent to have total peace of mind while still ensuring their children get an appropriate introduction to the vast wonder of the internet.

The machine runs on Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and essentially functions as a Mac Mini, coming with no keyboard, mouse, or screen of any kind. There is not access to the entire app market, just a few that are more suited to mouse and keyboard interaction, but a basic suite of apps, for web browsing, word processing, and media management are all included. One of the biggest feature is an included mobile app that acts as a command center for the device, allowing for the user to monitor and allow or restrict their child’s actions on the MiiPC. Custom settings can be changed for each user’s profile, and there is practically nothing that escapes a parent’s control. This is why I have no reason to believe that MiiPC will not find a niche somewhere in the market immediately, and maybe a few years from now their unique strategy of marketing to young families will make MiiPC a household name.

The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

Jan 15, 2013

While Windows Phone still is kind of sauntering around in the background of the iOS and Android scene, waiting for an opening, it should not be ignored. Its App Store is growing and phones are selling. But there’s one particular aspect of it that long-term could have Windows 8 doing well: OS integration with Windows.

Yes, the big sexy trend is moving away from desktops and moving in to the mobile space, particularly with tablets. But Windows is definitely starting to make a move in to tablets, or at least with hybrid devices. And with the Windows 8 experience being more consistent across different devices, there’s the potential for Microsoft to use this to sell the OS on phones, tablet, or PCs, wherever appropriate.

It would be a move in the direction of Apple, who increasingly make their mobile OS and computers cross-compatible with one another. iCloud has helped to make Macs and the iPhone a more seamless experience. There’s definitely a lot more that could be done, yes, but it’s something Apple’s got a heads up on. If Microsoft does it well, they can sell Windows as a cohesive OS from the phone up, especially with the modern interface formerly known as “Metro” across different devices.

Because Android is not connected to a specific OS, there’s an inherent disadvantage. They can’t push that kind of deep-level integration that Apple and potentially Microsoft can. However, there is the advantage that by connecting to software like Chrome and web services like Google+ and its Instant Upload. Not to mention all the things like Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts that already exist in a cloud service capacity. Google has a heads up there. But internally-integrated solutions are as a general rule more user-friendly, and Google will always exist as an outside provider on these platforms.

Is there a chance that Windows integration just never plays out? Sure. Android could still be the biggest fish in the sea on mobile (as far as raw numbers go) without this kind of integration? Sure. Heck, the personal computer could be a dying concept for many people and so this won’t matter. Or perhaps Chrome OS is the next huge thing. But if not, this does come off as a potential point of weakness for Android.

APC, the $49 Android PC

APC, the $49 Android PC

Jul 30, 2012

Cheap hardware is defining Android in a big way, but APC wants to take it even further. APC is a low-cost PC that runs on Gingerbread. This is designed to be as stripped down as possible: it’s an 800 MHz VIA processor with 512 MB of RAM. There’s 2 GB of onboard storage, with an SDHC slot for expansion, It supports up to 720p output through HDMI or VGA.

Sure, the hardware isn’t exactly sexy, but the price sure is: $49 plus shipping from the APC website. There isn’t even a case shipped with the APC, but it is compatible with Neo-ITX cases. As well, the power consumption of this device is meant to be very small.

While this is not a device meant for power Android users, this does appear to be designed for opportunities in low-income communities, developing nations, and even just for those that want cheap-but-capable PCs. It does not come with Google Play support, so those looking for software to use will have to find other app stores, or someone will have to come up with a way to get Google Play on the device. It’s not impossible.

The first wave of preorders is shipping from APC, with software such as bootloaders available, though new orders are not being accepted yet.