FRAMINGHAM, 22 FEBRUARY 2011 - An intriguing report on German news site Heise.de on Monday unveiled a cheap monitor that includes built-in PC functionality. The Acer DX241H is an otherwise standard 1920x1080 pixel HDMI monitor, but it also features an operating system running on top of an ARM Cortex-A8 chip--the same processor commonly found in cell phones and tablets. All this comes in at around just $400, although that price would likely be significantly lower if the product reaches the United States.
Initial reports said that the "monitor" ran Google's forthcoming Chrome OS, which would have made it the first commercial product to do so. Acer is one of Google's partners so this wasn't infeasible.
However, it transpired that this was a spec-list mistake. Instead, the DX241H will run the Chrome browser, almost certainly on top of an unspecified Linux distro. The only other software, it appears, will be a multimedia player.
Acer is touting the DX241H as a monitor that happens to have browsing built in, just like some monitors have simple computing functionality built in that lets them display pictures on memory cards, for example.
However, the product proposes an intriguing concept: Could it be the first of many inexpensive all-in-one monitor-and-PC combos featuring low-power ARM processors that allow them to run Chrome OS? Could Acer have accidentally created the first true cloud terminal?
The all-in-one PC field has boomed in recent years, pushing aside standard "box-based" desktop computers, despite the fact that more of us are switching to mobile computers and leaving desktop machines behind.
However, the prices of all-in-ones tend to be on the high side; you'll struggle to find one for less than $600, for example. More often than not they're designed to be stylish and compact additions to homes, taking their lead from the Apple iMac. The business market is largely untapped as of yet although I've seen a handful on desks here and there.
IT bosses are perhaps loathe to use all-in-ones because, price notwithstanding, a monitor bonded to a PC means that the whole unit is written off if any item of hardware dies. Additionally, upgrading is much trickier.
However, I'm not sure these complaints would be realistic with a cloud terminal. A cloud desktop computer could be an entirely solid-state machine, and we know from past experience that solid-state technology rarely fails.
Hyper-efficient ARM chips usually don't require fans for cooling, and moving parts are usually the first thing to die inside a computer. There'd be no need for hard disks either; a few gigs of flash chips on the motherboard would be more than enough.
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