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Innovative Platforms: Plug Computers

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Marvell Technology introduced a new category of computing at the beginning of 2009 called Plug Computing – computers that plug directly into electrical sockets. The strategy behind Marvell’s effort was to create a community around Plug Computers and to a larger degree they have been pretty successful.

Take a look at the number of partners and community development sites have come up in the last 12 months at the community site here and notable among these are the Pogoplug by Cloud Engines and an open source community being built by a student – Mike Staszel at Openpogo. Major tech bloggers such as Om Malik have nothing but praise for the simplicity and ease of Pogoplug.

The Plugs are using high-performance processors – they run the Marvell Sheeva ARM-core powered processor with very high integration, low-power consumption at 1.2GHz.

The initiative is innovative in its packaging of a computing platform – in the form of a “plug” – and while there may be many processors in the market that could fit in the same form factor (as of a Plug) – the Sheeva from Marvell is a very good combination of features and functions in the given small form factor.

The packaging innovation is being taken a step further – establishing a community led development strategy for the Plug Computers. Earlier this year I attempted to start hacking on ARM-core based systems by getting the TI Beagleboard which I wrote about here – but I found the entire process complicated and after getting the board never did anything with it. On the other hand getting started with the SheevaPlug was so much simpler (except the ordering process)….

Marvell, of course, hopes that this community driven development model on its processor will lead to an “iPhone SDK” style model and promoting richer software for the Plugs and hence in turn selling more processors.

Marvell is on the right track – the CES in Las Vegas in January should show a glimpse of what is in store for Plug Computing.

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Written by Ashu Joshi

December 24, 2009 at 4:07 pm