Marvell announces plug computer

February 26, 2009 // 1:51 p.m.

Tags: #arm #marvell #plug-computer #sdio #sff #sheeva #sheevaplug #small-form-factor

If you're all about the small-and-light, how does a fully-fledged PC crammed into a power brick grab you?

That's the concept from technology manufacturer Marvell, which it showcased last Tuesday according to PC Mag. The device – which is called SheevaPlug – is a PC with a 1.2GHz custom CPU based on the ARM architecture, 512MB of solid-state storage, and 512MB of RAM. The spec sheet is completed with a built-in gigabit Ethernet connection and a USB 2.0 bus for peripherals. The development platform also features an additional debug board with a mini-USB port alongside an SDIO connector, which can be used to add additional storage or even a WiFi connection.

Drawing less than a tenth of the power of a standard PC, and taking up near-zero footprint, the SheevaPlug certainly has a lot to recommend it. While the ARM-based architecture of the processor precludes the use of Windows, Marvell is working with several Linux distributions to ensure that the device will co-operate well with the open-source operating system.

Already there are customers working on devices based around the SheevaPlug: neat concepts currently in the works include a plug-in device to turn a humble USB mass storage device into a fully-fledged network-attached storage system along with a device to allow the iPhone to connect to external USB devices. While the lack of a second Ethernet port precludes using the device as a router or firewall, there's certainly nothing stopping it taking the place of a range of network attached hardware.

Simon Milner, the vice president and general manager of Marvell's enterprise group believes that the gadget will help make home networks “more intelligent,” and is keen to point out the “open platform” offered by the Linux-friendly device. The company is also providing an open-source API framework it has developed – called RainDrop – to help developers get to grips with the device.

Can you think of an exciting use for a PC built in to a plug, or is the lack of video output a deal-breaker? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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