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Computers

The $169 Endless computer is designed for emerging markets

This startup wants to put a desktop computer in the homes of two billion people who can't afford normal PCs. Here's how they are going to do it.

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The Endless sits on the far right, and on the monitor you can see just what the Endless OS looks like. Aloysius Low/CNET

TAIPEI -- Tucked away in a small corner at the Nangang Exhibition Hall at Computex is Endless Mobility, a Rio de Janeiro-based company that has grand plans to change the world with its $169 (£110, AU$217) Intel Celeron-powered Endless computer.

Powered by a custom Linux-based Endless OS, this egg-shaped PC may do what others have been trying to do -- get computers into homes in emerging markets to help raise the overall technology level of such economies.

According to research done by Endless, there appears to be a burgeoning middle class that has money, but not computers. Surprisingly, while they are considered to be in the middle class by their country's standard, they aren't able to afford even the cheapest computers. So it's this huge market of two billion persons that the Endless computer will appeal to. The company recently concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign and will soon also be selling the Endless computers in markets such as Guatemala.

Getting a computer to as low as $169 isn't easy, but Endless is doing it with a few workarounds. As mentioned, the PC skips using Microsoft's Windows operating system in favor of its own and also sold without a display, keyboard and mouse.

"Most families already have a TV at home," explains Rafael Lima, Endless' director of sales. "So they can hook up the Endless to the TV and use it as a monitor."

The PC also uses a cheaper Intel Celeron processor, but the Endless OS ran smoothly with nary a hiccup. The team spent three years working on Endless OS, which is designed for newbies in mind. Like mobile OSes, everything is wrapped up as an app, and there are a bunch of applications that come pre-installed.

Users will have access to offline Wikipedia and Khan Academy videos, and if a user is able to get online, the Endless computer will automatically detect the connection speed and download updates of Wikipedia to keep current.

Besides learning apps, the Endless comes with pre-installed games, but require users to "install" them to the desktop through an "app store". This helps to keep the desktop screen clutter free. Think of Endless OS as a simplified mobile OS that doesn't need to go online to work and you'll be right on the mark.

The Endless computer will come in three versions, the 32 gigabyte speakerless model that also lacks Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will retail for $169 (£110, AU$217), while the 32GB that comes with all the above will go for $189 (£123, AU$243). A 500GB version is the most expensive at $229 (£150, AU$295).

Click here for all the latest from the Computex trade show in Taiwan.