If the frenzy surrounding the credit card sized “Raspberry Pi” computer-board is any indication, low prices and even smaller packaging are the order of the day. Both Raspberry Pi and the new Cotton Candy thumb PC require peripherals like keyboards and monitors to be attached, but they can handle just about everything else. Raspberry Pi’s “brain” is the same processor used in the iPhone 3g models, and it’s $35.00 price tag makes it a steal. It’s a bare bones computer board, however, and needs more tweaking out of the box than the Cotton Candy thumb PC that’s currently only available through pre-order.
The Cotton Candy thumb PC naturally holds a stronger position in the market. Flash drives that run operating systems are nothing new, but this little number doesn’t need to use the CPU of a larger system. It contains its own 1.2 ghz processor, a wifi and bluetooth connection, HD graphic display through any HDMI screen it’s attached to, the ability to play MPEG-4 videos, and compatibility with Ubuntu and Android’s Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich operating systems. Essentially a plug and play PC, the drive can be used with a smartphone and an app or any compatible PC with a keyboard or integrated touchpad. The current price of 199.00 has some members of Cotton Candy’s target audience frowning, but the next cheapest fully-loaded option would be a Panda board, and it only saves consumers (who don’t mind packaging the bare board) $50.00.
The aims of the two mini machines differ, but they’re each generating their share of excitement. The clamor over Raspberry Pi’s release caused their site servers to crash, and the development team struggled to get it up and running again. They may have begun as a non-profit aiming to provide baby programmers with an affordable tool to work with, but a barrage of seasoned coders with serious 80s nostalgia are all over it. And, where Cotton Candy slightly fails with price-point, they succeed in providing an extremely portable PC alternative that’s fairly easy to hide from potential thieves on the evening commute and stretches the life of aging smartphones that can now avoid the recycling bin and live on with a new brain that’s easy to plug in as needed.