Tag Archives | Coby

Coby: We’re Not Working on a $99.95 Laptop

nocobyThis is weird. Yesterday, I blogged about a report on a site called Indymedia that low-cost electronics manufacturer Coby was getting ready to release a netbook-like mini-computer for $99.95. Today, I heard from a representative of Coby who says that the company is doing no such thing. Here’s Coby’s official statement on the matter:

Coby Electronics Corporation is not in fact developing or producing a laptop computer in the under-$100 price category, referred to in various erroneous reports as the“Midget PC,” “PoqetMate-7” and “PoqetMate-9.” Coby Electronics Corporation is not currently producing a PC nor is one headed to market at any price under the company’s name.  While Coby Electronics Corporation constantly monitors and evaluates all consumer electronics categories, no decision has been made to develop or launch laptops, nor have there been any specifications, pricing and distribution channels created for such product at this time.  Coby Electronics Corporation remains focused on producing high-quality, innovative and competitively priced products in a range of consumer electronics categories, including LCD TVs, Video MP3 players, Portable and Home DVD Players, Digital Photo Frames, iPod Docking Stations, Radios and Accessories.

That’s a pretty definitive denial. The Coby representative told me further that everything in the article was fabricated, including quotes from Coby representatives. Ross Rubin, an NPD analyst quoted in the Indymedia story, has more to say about this on his blog, and points out that his quote was lifted from a two-year-old New York Times article about Coby.

In my original post, I did use words such as “is reporting,” “according to,” “will apparently,” and “says that” to indicate that I was relying on the Indymedia post’s account of things. Obviously, it wasn’t reliable in the least, and it might have behooved me to adopt an even more skeptical tone. (Indymedia is, by the way, a citizen journalism site that allows ordinary folks to post items directly without editing; as with CNN’s false citizen-journalism story about a Steve Jobs medical emergency, this would appear to show the downside of such systems.) I suspect we will see devices along the lines of the “PoqetMate,” although perhaps not under $100 just now. But it’s official: Coby had no plans to enter this market.

All of this leaves one question: Why would anybody decide to make up stuff about Coby? It’s a privately-held company, so stock manipulation isn’t a factor.

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How Low Can Laptops Go? Coby Says $99.95

coby[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Coby says the Indymedia story was a hoax and they’re working on no such laptops.]

Coby, a company that specializes in dirt-cheap consumer electronics, says it’s getting into the dirt-cheap laptop business. A site called Arkansas Indymedia is reporting that Coby plans to ship a $99.95 notebook by March 2009.

Well, a sort of a notebook. According to Indymedia, Coby is saying it’s created a whole new class of computer, the “midget PC.” Well, maybe–the machines will apparently feature 7″ or 9″ screens, use non-x86 CPUs fron China-based Longsoon, and run Linux. Sounds like netbooks to me–very basic netbooks, perhaps, but not not a whole new approach to computing.

We don’t know what other specs the midget PCs will, um, “boast,” but you’ve gotta think they’ll have a smattering of flash storage, Wi-Fi (one hopes), maybe one USB port, basic sound pumped through a modest speaker system, and possibly no video output. Coby plans to sell it through grocery stores and other low-margin retail outfits.

Digging around on the Web, I see that the Coby’s pricetag may not be unprecedented–China’s Hivision already a $98 laptop, also based on a Longsoon chip. But it’s still an eyebrow-raiser, especially given that OLPC’s XO, the famous “$100 laptop,” still goes for $199. And the non-profit OLPC doesn’t need to eke out a profit, which Coby will presumably want to do.

Indymedia says that Coby’s brand-name will be PoqetMate. I like the reference, intentional or unintentional, to the old Poqet PC from the late 1980s–but I don’t know if Fujitsu, who ended up with the Poqet trademark, knows or approves of Coby’s plans.

The PoqetMate also reminds me of even earlier PCs like the Atari 400 (the first computer I bought with my own money, back in 1982). It’s stripped down; it’s presumably all solid-state; it’s likely at least somewhat hobbled by the fact that its CPU isn’t an x86 model, making it incompatible with most of the Linux software out there. Indymedia quotes Coby’s marketing guy as denying that it’ll be a toy. But it will surely be something less than a full-strength, general-purpose PC. It’ll be fascinating to see whether it turns out to be be a stunt or a type of computer that large numbers of real people use to do real work.