I really wanted to like the Zonbu, a small, Mac Mini-style network PC that runs a modified version of Gentoo Linux and uses Amazon’s S3 (and a small built-in Flash drive) for storage — and best of all, costs just $99. It seemed like such a great idea, as Nick Carr describes here and Daniel “Fake Steve Jobs” Lyons gushes here. Okay, it has a really stupid name, but then who doesn’t in these Web 2.0 times.

zonbu.jpgIn fact, the Zonbu might even be a great idea — except for the fact that it doesn’t cost anywhere close to $99. Or rather, it costs $99 in the same sense that a computer from Bill’s PC Warehouse costs $200 because it doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard, mouse or any software (which I’ve always thought was a little like taking the wheels and the engine out of a car and then advertising it for sale at $50). As Zoli Erdos points out in his post on Zonbu, the box actually costs about $250 when you go to buy one. In order to get the $99 deal, you have to sign up for two years worth of online data storage, which brings your total cost to about $400.

Okay, $400 isn’t a bad price for a networked PC with automated backup and a small form factor — except that you still need a monitor and a keyboard and mouse. I can buy a fully-configured Acer or HP desktop with all kinds of bells and whistles for $400. It might not fit under the counter or look good tucked onto a bookshelf, but it comes with a 160-gig hard drive, and I don’t have to call it a stupid name.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

One Response to “Zonbu network PC “bait-and-switch””
  1. I was curious if you could use it as an everyday PC too. So I ordered one a few months ago and I have been using it ever since. It’s not perfect but I’ve been pleased how little I use my “big” desktop PC now at home.

    In fact, since then, I’ve given one to an employee at work who isn’t that tech savvy and she uses it every day for online work. I also put one in our lobby to let random customers use it without explanation. Works great for web browsing.

    I’ve been blogging about my experiences with the Zonbu over the last three months, as well as observations about areas for improvement and business strategy ideas. You can read the blog here: http://mrzonbu.wordpress.com/

    -Mr. Zonbu

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