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Low power twist for PCs in Africa

The computers cost a lot, but they run on 18 watts of power at a peak.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read

Inveneo's computers for emerging nations aren't' the cheapest I've seen. At $469 to $769, the computers (the price includes a LCD screen, the systems are actually some of the highest priced models out there.

The company, though, makes it up on lower cost of ownership and energy efficiency, which are even bigger problems overseas, it says co-founder Bob Marsh. The Communications Station, which includes a VoIP unit, runs on 22 watts at its peak. The Computing Station (no VoIP unit) tops at 18 watts. That's lower than most processors alone.

An Inveneo computer michael kanellos

Power outages remain common in India because people egularly steal electricity from the grid. In some places, donated computers have proved to be a big headache for recipients. The PCs come with CRT monitors, which are energy hogs.

"They had to buy $2000 worth of stuff to run their computers," he said.

The VoIP calling units in some of the computers also can work while the computer stays in sleep mode to further curb power. With Skype, the computer has to remain on, which consumes power. The VoIP unit runs on four watts.

Inveneo rigs up many of the systems with solar panels.

Although the price of the PCs is a bit startling, the company doesn't come across as an organization bent on profits. The employees go regularly to Africa and can tell you harrowing stories about AIDS and refugees in Mozambique and elsewhere. 27 percent of the residents in Mozambique are infected with HIV. Trucks are used to get large numbers of people to cemeteries for funerals.

Still, it's a tough sell. The company's PCs in some ways are similar in concept to, but cost more than, those coming from nComputing, started by former Emachines founder Steve Dukker.

So far, Inveneo has completed 22 deployments in six African nations. Most of the deployments have been for schools and charities. It is also working with Intel on long-distance WiFi trials in Uganda.