While Internet access is nearly ubiquitous in the West and in many other parts of the world, about 5 billion people still cannot access the world marketplace and information engine that is the ‘net. Some places don’t have connectivity or a ready power supply; for other people, the cost of a laptop is out of their reach. (Yes, smart phones and tablets can access the Internet, but they don’t offer the storage, keyboard, mouse or operating system that a computer does.)
Matt Dalio, CEO of Endless Computers, sees an opportunity to change this. While traveling, he noticed that many people, even in remote parts of the world, had large-screen televisions. He wanted to see if he could create a system, using those tv screens, that would allow for Internet access.
Initially I thought we’re going to take Android, put it on a smartphone processor and how hard could it be?” he said. “And when we went into hardware how hard could that be? We’re basically taking an off-the-shelf board and slapping two pieces of plastic around it.
“The real challenge we found was that no existing operating system worked.”
After searching for the right development team (Endless eventually came up with a Linux-based operating system equipped with a new and easier-to-use interface) and launching a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than its $100,000 target in record time, Endless plans to go on sale in Mexico in May.
Equipped with app-based software and hardware that can cope with an uncertain power supply, Endless comes in a 32G and 500GB version both powered by 2GB of RAM.
The idea is to effectively encapsulate the internet for consumers beyond the range of the net. Each unit comes pre-loaded with a full encyclopedia, recipes, educational lectures and health information.
He noted that health information, for both people and animals, was a vital part of this system. People rely on animals for income, but don’t have access to veterinary care, and of course, many places have limited access to medical care for people. Design was also important, says Dalio.
Consumers in the developing world, he says, are no different to consumers anywhere else in the world and want something functional but also slick.
“People are like you and I, they want the best that they can afford,” he said. “They want something unique and beautiful and exciting and different.”
Now, for $169, some of those billions disconnected from the global marketplace will get that connection.