Technology has a way of getting smaller as it gets better, and Intel and Google have taken this idea to a new level with devices about the size of a thumb drive that can transform any high-definition monitor into a fully functioning computer.
At just 4 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, the Intel Compute Stick plugs into the HDMI port of any monitor to transform it into a computer powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor. The slightly narrower ASUS Chromebit turns an HD monitor into a Google Chrome device.
Intel believes its pocket-sized, plug-and-play device could be an attractive option for cost-conscious governments looking to add computing power on a budget.
Just plug the devices into a room full of monitors and “you’ve got PCs that are consuming a lot less power and are less noisy than traditional PCs,” says John Deatherage, director of marketing for Intel’s channel, innovation and solutions division.
Trevor Bonilla, technology director for the city of Fitchburg, Mass., sees another application.
“This technology has the potential to become a real option for business travelers or presenters,” Bonilla says, citing its small form factor. “Just like any other new technology, we should keep our eye on it.”
Intel offers two versions of its device: The more robust stick runs Microsoft Windows 8.1; the less expensive one runs Linux Ubuntu.
Both the Intel Compute Stick and the ASUS Chromebit come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a USB port for adding a mouse and keyboard. Intel’s device also includes a microSD slot for expanded storage.
Such devices can also be used to power digital signage, Deatherage says, and their portability make them a draw for teleworkers, who can take the device home and plug into an HDTV to continue working on their files.