Geekspin Blog

The Municator, possible african solution?

Posted on: April 2, 2006

I saw a mention of this on Rocketboom a week ago already, but only recently decided to give it a more in depth look.

What I found seems fairly interesting and seems to hold a whole lot of promise for developing countries like South Africa.

The Municator is a small form factor PC designed for use by Chinese citizens using Chinese hardware and is the brainchild of the forward thinking company Yellow Sheep River.

In the photo it is actually the small silver metal box marked with “Municator” in blue.

The device was featured at Cebit and was touted as having a $146 (later I saw 123 Euro) retail price tag, a brief spec overview reveals:

  • 400/800 MHz CPU
  • 133MHz FSB
  • ATI Radeon 7000-M
  • C2700 SODIMM slot,Support DDR 266 module, 128MB/256MB/512/MB,512 MB total memory capacity.
  • 40G HDD:Easily upgradeable ATA100/66/33 support
  • Optical storage optional but well supported
  • IO Interfaces well supported including 4xUSB 2.0, S-Video, VGA out port, IrDa etc.
  • Internal LAN: On-board 100M/10Mbp/s Ethernet LAN controller Realtek : 8139D
  • WiFi-compliant wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11a/b/g) by USB dongle(Optional)
  • Modem (Optional)

The Municator is designed around an OS called Thinix designed to suit the needs of the average Chinese household and that in facts encapsulates the vision of the manufacturer YelloSheepRiver. Their philosophy was to design a PC using local manufactured components to serve the needs of the local users first and foremost.

If we can produce our own products by ourselves, more Chinese computer-users can enjoy the benefits, and this is what we have aimed to achieve.

The Municator is a very small form factor designed to be mobile and to “move it where it is needed”, if you have a keyboard and a TV around chances are that you will be ok. Also interesting is the Thinix UI that seems to have been been designed to be very usable to non PC users, i.e. easy access to the main features like internet (FireFox), email (Thunderbird), word processing (RedOffice, a Chinese developed MS Word compatible software) etc. (Instant Messaging is also supported btw.). Overall this is not the device for you if you need a high tech machine to play the latest games or use high impact applications but for most people it will be more than enough.

While the Municator is not a terribly fast solution and still lacks the keyboard, mouse and monitor something like this does look very promising. It could be argued that used hardware of similar specs can be cobbled together cheaper, but for a developing country it makes a lot of sense to have something as neatly packaged as this running standardised software used for browsing , email , audio and video offering a easy to support appliance rather then a wobbly old PC.

I hope some entrepreneuring individual will take it on himself to start looking at devices like these in conjunction with the government to start putting communication technology like the internet within reach of every South African.

Read more here:
http://www.gizmowatch.com/entry/146-municator-computer/
http://cebitvideo.com/?p=20
http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/municator-the-146-linux-computer


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1 Response to "The Municator, possible african solution?"

[…] Bill Gates,during today’s Cape Town presentation, says that Microsoft are moving at introducing wireless technologies into Africa “so that internet can be delivered cheaply”. Hey, I am all for that, but it is the article on Reuters that is dissappointing, seems that MS is teaming up with MTN (Africas biggest mobile carrier) to provide a bandwidth solution packaged with a low-end PC running a stripped down version of Windows. Why am I disappointent? Well if cost is the problem, where are the solutions using exciting initiatives like Ubuntu and Edubuntu? Where is the South African version of the Municator? Africa does not need a strip downed low-end PC, we need an appliance that can operate with minimal support. Investors, take note! Why should we have an international company come and set down its proprietary fortress in our back yard now that their stock prices are crashing in back yard. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this continent becoming the dumping ground for the rest of the worlds old news! At least Gates is right about one thing, Wireless is the only forward for us in this country. […]

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