If Marvell has its way, plug computers will soon become commonplace. The company today announced its Plug Computing initiative, which seeks to make always-on computing not only more flexible and easy-to-use than it is today, but also more environmentally friendly compared to a typical desktop or laptop PC.
A plug computer is essentially a small embedded computer that plugs into a wall socket and hooks into your home network via an Ethernet cable. It can then run network-based services that would typically be handled by a desktop or laptop. Marvell's SheevaPlug platform, for example, comes equipped with a Kirkwood embedded processor based on an embedded 1.2GHz Sheeva CPU, 512MB of flash memory, and 512MB of DDR2 memory. The SheevaPlug supports various Linux 2.6 kernel distros, which Marvell hopes will accelerate the development of software and services.
"Plug computing is a logical evolution for the digital home in the same way enterprise applications moved from servers to network appliances," Mr. Hajime Nakai, Director, Member of the Board, BUFFALO INC. "Marvell is probably the only company that can pack so much processor performance into such a compact form factor."
Gigabit Ethernet ensures that bandwidth won't become a problem, and a USB 2.0 port means end-users can connect things like external USB hard drives for easy access anywhere that an internet connection exists. And it's all environmentally sound, says Marvell, who claims that plug computing consumes less than 5 watts under normal operation compared to 25-100 watts for a PC being used as a home server.
If all this sounds familiar, it's because some manufacturers have already jumped on board and unveiled plug computing devices at CES. We reported on the Pogoplug by Cloud Engines last month, which continues to sell for an introductory price of $80 (MSRP is $100).
With a low cost of entry for both developers and end-users, Marvell might be on to something here.