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Super Tiny Computer Puts Android on Your TV, Laptop

Early this year we got to see, through ARM-powered devices such as the Motorola Atrix, that it doesn't take even a netbook to run basic computing functions. At a live demonstration in New York City, FXI Technologies showed off the next evolution of that idea: an ARM-based computer on a USB stick without any of that extra smartphone or tablet baggage.

FXI calls its prototype device "Cotton Candy," which can turn any HDMI-enabled display into a smart TV that's able to browse the web thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and run apps such as YouTube and Netflix. The device can even store data, including videos, locally through an expandable microSD slot up to 64GB. Input comes from Bluetooth devices. The prototype model that was on display through a 42-inch HDTV was running Android 2.3, but it will be able to run an ARM version of Ubuntu.

"Today’s device functionality is often limited by the size of the screen it inhabits," said Borgar Ljosland, founder and CEO of FXI Technologies.  "We’ve turned things upside down, eliminating the screen and delivering the power of a PC and the web to any screen."

At the other end of the stick-shaped device is a USB port that will plug into any Windows or Mac computer to use its keyboard and other input devices. FXI demonstrated this using a MacBook, which was then able to display the Android version of Angry Birds Rio. It worked the same on a Windows-based ThinkPad as well.

"The laptop use case shows how with FXI’s patent protected Any Screen Virtualization Protocol, Cotton Candy can take over a host device’s screen to display Internet connected content," said Ljosland. "We believe these usage scenarios will be easily adopted by consumers and FXI’s USB connected computing devices will make an ideal companion for the multitude of digital devices and screens people touch daily."

The technical specifications of the Cotton Candy prototype are right up there with today's smartphones.

o   Dual Cortex A9, 1.2 GHz with NEON extensions

o   Mali-400MP Quad-Core, 266MHz OpenGL ES v2.0

o   1080p video multi-format decode (MPEG-4, H.264, H.263 )
802.11 b/g/n Wifi

o   Bluetooth v2.1

o   USB 2.0

o   HDMI 1.4

Of course, this is just a prototype; the final version won't be ready until about a year from now. Cotton Candy isn't even going to be the official name, but with a targeted $200, it could still be pretty sweet.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.