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Will $9 Linux CHIP Replace Raspberry Pi?

Startup Next Thing is turning to Kickstarter to tap funding for its pocket-sized computer -- CHIP -- which runs Google's Chrome browser, uses Linux, and costs just $9 to start.

Nathan Eddy

May 11, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Next Thing)</p>

8 Linux Security Improvements In 8 Years

8 Linux Security Improvements In 8 Years

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Technology startup Next Thing is preparing to unleash a credit card-sized personal computer -- dubbed CHIP -- on the world, turning to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to drum up financial support.

The project, which has already received close to $700,000 out of a $50,000 goal with 26 days to go, allows users to work in LibreOffice, a free and open source office suite developed by The Document Foundation that allows users to save documents to CHIP's onboard storage.

The basic CHIP costs just $9, with a battery, VGA and HDMI adapter, and mobile casing, which can eventually push the price up to just under $50.

CHIP is expected to ship in December of this year, with the full package with accessories available in May of next year.

While just getting started, the CHIP computer is entering a market that is now dominated by the likes of the Raspberry Pi. The second version of that DIY computer system now supports Microsoft Windows and is clearly steering toward a more business-friendly model.

Still, Next Thing believes it's onto something.

"The risks inherent in volume manufacturing are real, and we've taken every precaution to prepare for and actively address them," the Next Thing's Kickstarter page noted. "With the support of our manufacturing and distribution partners we are well equipped for the challenges ahead. We promise to keep our backers updated and informed about any issues that may arise."

The computer features a 1GHz processor, 512MB of random access memory (RAM) and 4GB of onboard storage. It offers connectivity through Bluetooth 4 and WiFi, which allows users to connect to the Web and add on a wireless keyboard or mouse.

CHIP also comes pre-loaded with Scratch, a user-friendly programming language that teaches the basics of programming by making stories, games, and animations.

On the display front, the computer lets users connect to any type of screen through CHIP's built-in composite output, or by adding a simple adapter for either VGA or HDMI.

It features an open source operating system, which comes preinstalled with dozens of applications, tools, and games. Web connectivity is provided by Google's Chromium browser.

In addition, CHIP can run a wide variety of free applications from the open-source community.

Keeping an eye on portability and mobility, the company also revealed PocketCHIP, which gives the computer a 4.3-inch, 470-by-272-pixel screen with resistive touch, a QWERTY keyboard, and a 5-hour battery, all tucked into case small enough to fit in a user's pocket.

CHIP also includes an integrated battery power circuit so that users can take a project outside without the need for an external power circuit -- users can just attach a 3.7v LiPo battery to the device and can go mobile.

"Most important, though, is that CHIP is built to be flexible," Next Thing's Kickstarter page adds:

Whether you're building yourself a wall clock that counts down time to the next bus at your stop, or setting up a network of hundreds of solar-powered air quality sensors for use in disaster relief, you need the same basic tools to start from: a processor, a way to exchange data, and a way to power everything. With CHIP, all the groundwork is laid, and the only question is what you'll do next.

[Read about what you can and can't do with Raspberry Pi.]

The company is entering a burgeoning market of pocket-sized computers. In addition to the Raspberry Pi, Intel is also muscling into the PC-on-a-stick market with the release of the Compute Stick, its version of a pocket PC that resembles a USB stick in size and weight.

The Asus Chromebit, which will hit stores this summer, includes 2GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD, along with a full-size USB 2.0 port for connecting accessories. It can also connect to the Web through Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac WiFi.

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

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