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The Mini Linux PC the Size of a Wall Plug

Fabless chip design company Marvell unveiled a new concept for a computer that fits inside the palm of your hand, or on your wall socket.

Remember that $10 (or even $20) PC that ended up being a huge disappointment? Marvell might finally be able to make good on some of the expectations set by that original concept, unrealistic price points aside.

Marvell calls it the Plug Computer, for its small form factor that can plug directly into a wall socket (it looks like a big AC adapter wall wart without the cord) and at is designed to draw so little power (5 W) that it can be left on all of the time.

Specifically, the Plug Computer unveiled is called “SheevaPlug,” a development platform uses a Marvell Kirkwood processor based on an embedded 1.2 GHz Sheeva CPU equipped with 512 MB of FLASH and 512 MB of DRAM. Connection to the home network is via Gigabit Ethernet. Peripherals such as direct attached storage can be connected using a USB 2.0 port.

Multiple standard Linux 2.6 kernel distributions are supported on the Sheeva Plug development platform enabling rapid application development. The new device is ideal for use as desktop terminals in large support offices, where only basic client and logging software is being used, such as a tech support facility. These modules can also be used at sales terminals at retail locations. Needless to say, very low power usage, extremely small foot print, and very low cost of ownership make Marvell's Plug Computer an attractive option for businesses of any size.

The SheevaPlug development kit is available now for $99, but promises an eventual version at $49. At that price, the plug could make one very attractive home media server solution for those who want something unobtrusive and economical, but aren’t afraid to tinker around with Linux.

Check out Marvell’s site on plug computing for more on the concept. What do you think? Is this something that you would buy to serve other machines, or even something to replace an existing server?

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.