Japan’s Turbolinux began shipping its Wizpy digital media devices on Friday.
The Flash-based, USB device includes a version of the Linux operating system (OS) that can be used to run the open source OS on nearly any computer.
According to Turbolinux, the idea behind the device is “to turn all the world’s computer[s] into your PC.” Currently only available in Japan, the Linux embedded, portable, USB-bootable device — which also doubles as a digital audio player — will make its way to store shelves around the world in the coming months.
Getting Your OS Groove On
The palm-sized all-in-one next-generation mobile device provides users with the functionality of a PC without requiring them to lug around a laptop. The player is available in 2 GB and 4 GB versions; however, as the devices come preloaded with 1 GB of open source software — including the TurboLinux Fuji OS, the Firefox Web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client, Skype Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service and OpenOffice 2.1 — that leaves at minimum 1 GB of storage for media and other files.
The device also features an FM radio, a voice recorder and a 1.7 inch screen for viewing e-books, pictures, movies and video files.
“The Wizpy sounds most promising because it requires no setup,” Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research, told LinuxInsider. “The two 1 GB and 4 GB Wizpy models allow plenty of storage capacity for documents and images, although it may pose a problem for larger music and video files.”
The device requires a USB 2.0-equipped PC configured to search for a boot-up CD before it starts with the default operating system, Gray added, so people with older machines may find that the product does not work with their computers.
Company officials expressed hope that the device’s “take-it-with-you” access to the Linux OS may simplify users’ decisions to migrate from Windows XP or Vista to Linux.
With its multifunction device, Turbolinux claims that it has removed the OS from the PC and created one that is portable instead. This is possible because once connected to a PC, the device masquerades as a USB CD-ROM drive. That enables the Linux OS to boot without the user installing any actual components on the PC.
Files can be stored either in the documents folder, only accessible from within the Linux OS, or they can be kept in the media folder, accessible when the device is connected to the host PC.
However, any files stored on the PC’s hard drive are inaccessible while the Wizpy is connected. If the PC is connected to a network, users can surf the Internet or make phones calls using the included VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software. The device can also connect to supported peripherals.
Wizpy’s creators hope the device will encourage users to make the switch from Windows XP or Vista to Linux. According to Gray, however, most PC users are somewhat unfamiliar with Linux.
“As a result, I don’t think the Wizpy was designed to ‘convince’ users to switch operating systems to Linux,” Gray explained. “It will, however, introduce Windows and, eventually, Mac users to the Linux operating system — which will help Turbolinux in the long run.”