A putative $100 netbook has been spotted a couple of times. Once, we reported on the offering from a certain company that those who ordered from found to be a bigger talker than it was a shipper (and which took umbrage when we pointed this out).
Another time, David Rothman pointed me at a $100 Chinese netbook being sold through a particular online vendor—but once I checked the vendor in ResellerRatings and discovered an extremely low customer satisfaction score, I decided not to report on it. Fool me once, shame on you…
Now Wired reports on a $77 Chinese netbook being sold on eBay. (Wired incorrectly calls it a $37 netbook—but the eBay seller charges $40 to ship it from Hong Kong. Standard eBay seller trick: set the price low, but charge through the nose for shipping. Still a decent price, though.) It’s probably the very same computer as those other two, given the source.
It runs Windows CE on a 300 MHz ARM VIA processor with 128MB RAM and a whopping 2GB storage. The huge bezel around the tiny 7-inch 800 x 480 screen has space for a pair of speakers either side, and you even get an ethernet jack and a couple USB ports (take that, iPad) along with Wi-Fi. You can also slot-in an SD card.
Apparently these are “factory seconds or items which have failed quality control tests” but the eBay listing claims they have been tested to work and they have a 14 day return policy—and eBay, at least, has some consumer protections built in. Still, caveat emptor, very much.
The Windows CE OS does not impress me—but I suspect it would be possible to install Linux in its place. If I had a little more money I might actually risk it. It might make a decent portable writing, web browsing, and e-book-reading machine, though the little hamster powering it probably wouldn’t run fast enough for anything else.
On the other hand, there’s no harm in waiting. Moore’s Law being what it is, sub-$100 Chinese netbooks will probably find a more legitimate route to market sooner or later. Who knows, someday you might get them by sending away cereal box tops.