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Mini Android PC hitches a ride on a Kickstarter rocket

Mar 26, 2013  |  Rick Lehrbaum
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A company developing a low-cost personal computer based on Android launched a Kickstarter project on March 25, to help get the device into production. After just one day, the MiiPC project has already achieved Kickstarter pledges of more than $10,000 beyond its $50,000 goal.

The MiiPC (pronounced “me-PC”) is basically a mini-PC running Android. However, it’s being marketed as a device with the mission of creating “a simple and effective way for families to take back control of online experiences, [by] letting MiiPC create a safe and relaxed environment for your family computing.”



MiiPC is a mini-PC running Android 4.x

MiiPC is a project of ZeroDesktop Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif.

“We want to provide a simple and effective way for families to take back control of the online experience,” explains the team on the project’s Kickstarter page. “Traditional software or hardware solutions simply block kids from going to certain websites. This is inherently limiting and it also does not address what we believe is a key challenge with kids and the Internet: its addictiveness.”

When ZeroDesktop launched the MiiPC’s Kickstarter project yesterday, the team had been developing the device for about nine months, and it already had working prototypes. Still, the stated goal of delivering finished product to its Kickstarter project’s growing fan-base by the end of August remains aggressive.



MiiPC rear panel connections

Key MiiPC features, according to its Kickstarter project page, include:

  • Powered by the “latest Android Jelly Bean 4.2 OS”
  • Fast internet surfing with an accurate web experience (instead of mobile sites with big fonts), flash content support, customizable desktop, and more
  • Supports LCDs with desktop-level resolutions up to 1920×1080
  • Multiuser log-in for family members of for use as a public kiosk
  • Super-smooth movie and video playback
  • Miracast Receiver — remote wireless display of video feeds from Miracast-enabled devices (tablets, smartphones) through MiiPC to the big screen (monitor or HDTV)

One unique aspect of the MiiPC is its companion Android app (shown below), which allows remote management of the devices, including settings for various user profiles with individualized sets of apps and web-access restrictions. The feature is meant to allow parents to set limits on what their kids can access and do with the device. (For more about this, watch the short MiiPC project video at the bottom of this post.)



MiiPC Android app

Additionally, the device will include free bundled productivity apps, such as KingSoft Office; Splashtop2; eReaders, multimedia players, according to the team.

The photo below shows the MiiPC’s embedded motherboard.



MiiPC’s internal electronics

The MiiPC’s hardware specs, as listed on its Kickstarter page, include:

  • Processor: 1.2GHz dual-core Marvell Armada 1500 series SOC (system-on-chip), based on ARMv7 CPU architecture
  • Memory: 1GB RAM and 4GB internal flash storage
  • Expansion: SD slot; 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • WiFi (802.11 b/g/n); Ethernet; and Bluetooth 4.0
  • A/V ports: speaker/mic jack; HDMI (1080p/720p) output



MiiPC is built around a Marvell Armada 1500 SOC
(click image to enlarge)

 

According to Marvell, the Armada 1500 integrates functions that accelerate and enhance the display of HD and 3D video, including scaling, noise reduction, de-interlacing, low bit-rate Internet video enhancement and FRC, and color/contrast enhancement. Additionally, the SOC includes a multi-format video decoder capable of decoding two simultaneous 1080p streams, and hosting various other video formats and containers.

The MiiPC project team reports that it has a fully functioning MiiPC device prototype completed, with working server and client architecture. “We’re refining the MiiPC front end user interface. The app itself is nearly finished and we have already overcome the most difficult technical challenges.” Additionally, the team says it’s “committed” to begin shipping devices to purchasers this summer.

Here’s the team’s Kickstarter project video:




 

Although the MiiPC’s backer, ZeroDesktop, has not divulged what the device’s price will be once it’s fully in production, the device’s Kickstarter page currently is offering 2,000 MiiPCs to those who pledge $99. For further info, visit the MiiPC’s Kickstarter project page. ZeroDesktop’s MiiPC page is here.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

4 Responses to “Mini Android PC hitches a ride on a Kickstarter rocket”

  1. Zeeshan Hasan says:

    Will it be able to play Khan Academy videos? This is one place where Raspberry Pi falls short, and it’s very important for schools and other educational settings.

  2. MikeF says:

    Only a 1.7 Ghz CPU and 1GB Ram? Extremely low specs if it’s going to be used as a Desktop. Webpages these days are multi-megabyte and as a Desktop, that 1GB Ram will be used up very quickly.

    For me, this should have used a Tegra 4 and had 4GB ram to be usable as a Desktop. But for $99 I guess you can use it as a Media Center, even that’s not a reason since the Ouya will be available soon and have all those functions.

    This might have been a good sale with better specs, but with the Ouya and others, I really don’t think this is needed, Ouya is clearly a better bargain at the same price.

  3. jim says:

    this little unit has the potential to reach out into a massive android userbase. timing could not have been better to launch.

  4. Dar says:

    Too bad it only has usb2, but I think that probably has to do with an Android OS limitation (I think I recall reading that somewhere). However, it’ll be interesting to see how successful this will be.

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