Intel Unveils Compute Stick

Jan 13, 2015

Four-inch-long computer on a stick lets you boot a full Linux system from any HDMI display device.

As expected, this year's CES show in Las Vegas bubbled with a new generation of wearables and other mobile Internet gadgets, with every vendor claiming a “breakthrough” that would bring forth a revolution in tech.
One development that wasn’t quite so sci-fi but still could prove important to the Linux community was the appearance of the Intel Compute Stick. The Compute Stick is a whole personal computer on a stick – not just an operating system – you plug in to a home PC: It is a PC, with a quad-core 1.33GHz Atom processor, wireless networking, on-board storage, USB 2.0 and MicroUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, and a microSD card slot for adding additional storage capacity. Intel says the Compute Stick will provide “… everything you love about your desktop computer in a device that fits in the palm of your hand.”
Putting the operating system and working files on a USB stick, so you can plug it into any personal computer to boot a familiar system, has become quite common in the Linux community. The compute stick takes this paradigm a step further. You can plug the compute stick into any HDMI display device to transform the display into a full computer system.
Processor-on-a-stick systems have existed for some time, but a more-or-less complete system, with onboard storage and Intel marketing clout, could be an important development. The Compute Stick comes with either Windows 8.1 or Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS. The Linux version sells for only $89 – significantly less than the $149 for the Windows model. Before you celebrate about the economy of free software, note that the Ubuntu model comes with less RAM (1GB vs. 2GB for Windows) and less storage (8GB vs. 32GB for Windows).
Technologies like the Compute Stick could provide additional mobility for users who aren't interested in throwing their whole life into the cloud and prefer the benefits of local computing and storage. Intel is still awaiting FCC approval to release the Compute Stick to the public. The stick should go on sale sometime in 2015 – some industry experts estimate by March or April.

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