UK scheme to bring £98 PCs to the marketplace

A new initiative launched this week in the UK is aiming to bring affordable computing to the masses by offering a PC that costs a mere £98. Race Online 2012 aims to sell 8,000 refurbished computers by the end of the year, but head of the scheme Martha Lane Fox told the Financial Times that she hopes to bring the internet to the UK's "final third", with 9.2m adults in the UK currently without access.

From a technical standpoint, details are scarce, but what is known is that the systems will ship running a version of Linux and will come pre-installed with various other open-source offerings. On the hardware front, a keyboard, mouse and flat screen are included, but the £98 also includes extras such as delivery and telephone support. A special deal has been negotiated with mobile giant Three to offer customers a rate of £9 per month for mobile broadband, or a lower rate of £18 for three months.

In an effort to avoid competition with the current market, the systems will be sold in a variety of online centres, complete with training and support. Plans have also been made to offer the system through charities, as well as using job centres and unions to raise awareness. Due to a lack of public funding however, Race Online are dependent on multiple commercial funding sources, such as Microsoft, BSkyB and the BBC.

According to Race Online, over 350,000 jobs are advertised only online. Ms Lane Fox is hoping that by removing the price barrier from computing, the 9.2m British adults without internet access will be able to take advantage of the opportunities available online.

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Sounds like some one is cashing in on but using a "we're helping you all" as a sales pitch and getting backing from the government.

This isn't the first offer of cheap computing I have seen and many LARGE companies give away PC's.

I know that I had access to 200 computers once free of charge, nothing wrong with them just company fancy an upgrade, They were only P4 478's but more than capable of running the net!

Fair play to her for conducting it, hope it pays off for her!

xXTOKERXx said,
Sounds like some one is cashing in on but using a "we're helping you all" as a sales pitch and getting backing from the government.

This isn't the first offer of cheap computing I have seen and many LARGE companies give away PC's.

I know that I had access to 200 computers once free of charge, nothing wrong with them just company fancy an upgrade, They were only P4 478's but more than capable of running the net!

Fair play to her for conducting it, hope it pays off for her!

But they are not getting backing from the government, its only through third party companies!

cough
The economic case

Our citizens and UK Plc will have a competitive advantage in the global knowledge economy.
The UK economy benefits to the tune of an estimated £22 billion.
Government services could save £900m annually, if all people currently both digitally and socially excluded were to move just one government contact a month online.
The 20% lowest income households would benefit from more than £1bn of savings from shopping and paying bills online
cough

you know, for those only interested in £££

Cameron is trying to make everyone into "good little consumers" to prop up this ailing/collapsing debt based monetary ponzi scheme. Poverty and inequality will always exist while we live in this kind of economic model.

cough Due to a lack of public funding however, Race Online are dependent on multiple commercial funding sources, such as Microsoft, BSkyB and the BBC. cough

From living in an area surrounded by state funded housing, it's quite the thing to see just how many manage to afford to spend hundreds of pounds on fireworks every year. I'd prefer a more targeted approach to this; not only to ensure that people who need and would use it get it, but also to keep the rubbish and worthless away.

SoupDragon said,
From living in an area surrounded by state funded housing, it's quite the thing to see just how many manage to afford to spend hundreds of pounds on fireworks every year. I'd prefer a more targeted approach to this; not only to ensure that people who need and would use it get it, but also to keep the rubbish and worthless away.

state funded housing doesn't always equate to poor incomes and the aim of this scheme isn't to provide cheap computers to people on low income, but rather people who don't know how to use a computer or want for internet access.
A typical new computer is around £350 from pc world for a basic machine, thats quite a lot to spend on a 'gadget' to gain internet access, the £98 is a lot for some, but cheap enough if it gets them online to see what all the fuss is about.

I'm more worried about any kind of contract that will be linked to the 3 internet access, hopefully its pay as you go and not a 12-18 month contract people will be getting suckered into.


sagum said,

state funded housing doesn't always equate to poor incomes and the aim of this scheme isn't to provide cheap computers to people on low income, but rather people who don't know how to use a computer or want for internet access.
A typical new computer is around £350 from pc world for a basic machine, thats quite a lot to spend on a 'gadget' to gain internet access, the £98 is a lot for some, but cheap enough if it gets them online to see what all the fuss is about.

I'm more worried about any kind of contract that will be linked to the 3 internet access, hopefully its pay as you go and not a 12-18 month contract people will be getting suckered into.


You will probably find it will be a 30 day rolling contract plan

QUOTE:
. . . The computers are really going to need to be loaded with
the most simplistic Linux distribution kicking around . . .
UNQUOTE.

I'm guessing these refurbished £98 machines are more than likely to have Ubuntu Linux installed,
although I would personally recommend Linux Mint, as it has a far more Windows like desktop
layout, and is one of the most (if not, the most) user friendly distros around.

Whoever is charged with the responsibility of selling these lo-cost Linux based PCs will need to
make it totally 100% clear to customers from the outset, that Linux is NOT Windows, and a lot
of software made specifically for Windows, won't work without a lot of faffing about with
extra 3rd party programs like WINE, CrossOver, or a VM client like VirtualBox.

Also, they'll need to remind customers, that if they want a full Windows installation in place of
whatever Linux OS is installed, that it could at least double the initial cost of the system.

DJGM said,
QUOTE:
. . . The computers are really going to need to be loaded with
the most simplistic Linux distribution kicking around . . .
UNQUOTE.

Unfortunately, these kinds of initiatives tend to create their own custom locked down distros. All they need to do is install Xubuntu to get a lightning fast, easy to use, broadly known and supported OS. But I doubt they'll do that. They often have idiotic bureaucrats making the decisions.

DJGM said,

I'm guessing these refurbished £98 machines are more than likely to have Ubuntu Linux installed,
although I would personally recommend Linux Mint, as it has a far more Windows like desktop
layout, and is one of the most (if not, the most) user friendly distros around.

What is with your obsession with Windows? Linux will never be Windows, and I'm thankful for that.

DJGM said,

Whoever is charged with the responsibility of selling these lo-cost Linux based PCs will need to
make it totally 100% clear to customers from the outset, that Linux is NOT Windows, and a lot
of software made specifically for Windows, won't work without a lot of faffing about with
extra 3rd party programs like WINE, CrossOver, or a VM client like VirtualBox.

You don't get it do you? It's mainly designed to allow people to access the internet through a browser, not to play the latest crytek game. The same Web Browsers exist on Linux and Windows. Firefox, Chrome etc.

DJGM said,

Also, they'll need to remind customers, that if they want a full Windows installation in place of
whatever Linux OS is installed, that it could at least double the initial cost of the system.

They're not installing Windows and wont ever be. Just learn to accept that your precious Windows OS has not been selected for this device. Drivers may not even be available for Windows. Hehe

Flawed said,

Unfortunately, these kinds of initiatives tend to create their own custom locked down distros. All they need to do is install Xubuntu to get a lightning fast, easy to use, broadly known and supported OS. But I doubt they'll do that. They often have idiotic bureaucrats making the decisions.


What is with your obsession with Windows? Linux will never be Windows, and I'm thankful for that.


You don't get it do you? It's mainly designed to allow people to access the internet through a browser, not to play the latest crytek game. The same Web Browsers exist on Linux and Windows. Firefox, Chrome etc.


They're not installing Windows and wont ever be. Just learn to accept that your precious Windows OS has not been selected for this device. Drivers may not even be available for Windows. Hehe


people who buy this 98 quid PC, arent tech savvy as said above...
when they get a cd with software, games or maybe the latest Office files (which OO doesnt support yet) and they 'll be clueless.. on a windows oriented Linux distro, they'll have more guidance and build in help. So they'll be less clueless...

just a trail of thought. and maybe you should open your eye s out of your precious linux.
Windows offers more default drivers for one (and better ones.) then any linux distro
but meh, probably some fanboy who installed ubuntu and wants to appear pro.
or some lifeless nutcase on archlinux with the same attempts.

and if linux never will be windows, why is ubuntu trying so hard and outgrowing debians marketshare by a fast pace?

regards, happy windows/debian user ;D

It's a great initiative, but at the same time I am not fully certain as to how the United Kingdom can afford to be backing ideas such as this. Don't get me wrong: I'm ecstatic that they're going to be trying to ship out computers for such an agreeable price, but daily we are told about the tough economic times ahead, and how we're going to struggle into the future, so how can we afford this?

As people have already correctly stated, Linux is going to be a complicated OS for the households the computers will most likely end up in. Chances are those computers will wind up running a pirate copy of Windows XP or something because a family friend says it'll be fine. And really, that's going to be a problem. The computers are really going to need to be loaded with the most simplistic Linux distribution kicking around. Peppermint OS looks a bit like Windows, but they're going to need to be the kind of OS where it is virtually idiot-proofed. I do admire the government for trying with this initiative though - at least we can all experience the digital age, even if we can't really afford to.

Put the VAT up from 17.5% to 20% and then spend money on Laptops. How about the government wakes up to the fact that we just got out of a recession and start spending our tax money on necessities and cutting stuff that is not paramount to our survival.

Vice said,
Put the VAT up from 17.5% to 20% and then spend money on Laptops. How about the government wakes up to the fact that we just got out of a recession and start spending our tax money on necessities and cutting stuff that is not paramount to our survival.

The government isnt providing funding for this. Third party corporations are.

One concern I have with this is "the systems will ship running a version of Linux . . . ".

As good as Linux is, and given these PCs are likely to end up in households that aren't tech savvy,
a lot of these people will expect it to work and run exactly like Windows does. They'll wonder
where Internet Explorer is, even though it'll very likely already have Firefox installed. They'll
try to download Windows Live Messenger, and then ask "Why can't I get MSN to work?!?",
(even though it hasn't got MSN branding anymore) regardless of the likelyhood there'll
be an open source messenger client installed with similar functionality to WLM.

I predict some users will give up on Linux, the hard drive gets reformatted by "a friend who
knows about computers n stuff" and a version of Windows is installed in place of Linux.

Don't get me wrong, Linux is a great OS for all it's worth. I use it myself when I can. Sadly,
some people just "don't get it" and think, if it isn't Microsoft (or even Apple) ... it's s**t!

It's cheap, especially for having a flat screen, depending on specs. With support, maybe more people will try Linux and be OK with it. Even if they're not, who cares. They bought it, they can do what they want with it after.

I know what you mean though. I installed Linux on a couple of machines because I got tired of reformatting everytime they got infected with something. It worked for a while, but they never took the time to learn how to do anything else, so I put Windows back on and told them not to call me when they had problems I even had XP running in a VM for them.

DJGM said,
One concern I have with this is "the systems will ship running a version of Linux . . . ".

As good as Linux is, and given these PCs are likely to end up in households that aren't tech savvy,
a lot of these people will expect it to work and run exactly like Windows does. They'll wonder
where Internet Explorer is, even though it'll very likely already have Firefox installed. They'll
try to download Windows Live Messenger, and then ask "Why can't I get MSN to work?!?",
(even though it hasn't got MSN branding anymore) regardless of the likelyhood there'll
be an open source messenger client installed with similar functionality to WLM.

I predict some users will give up on Linux, the hard drive gets reformatted by "a friend who
knows about computers n stuff" and a version of Windows is installed in place of Linux.

Don't get me wrong, Linux is a great OS for all it's worth. I use it myself when I can. Sadly,
some people just "don't get it" and think, if it isn't Microsoft (or even Apple) ... it's s**t!


The amazing thing is, people who've never used a computer nor waited to use internet are most of the people who this scheme is aimed at and you can feed them anything and they'll not know any different.

I think they'll be referb nettop machines (typicaly sub 300mb cpu, sub 256mb ram, no harddisk, with google mail, facebook links in (as you said) firefox and on portal webpage is all that will be needed as these machines are intended for very very basic access to the internet.

The beginners who use this machines will just be thankful they can chat on facebook with their family and friends and when they finally put the mouse down from waving it in the air, they'll not be asking where IE or firefox is, they'll want to know what to click on to get 'the internet' as we know it as webpages.

It'll be sometime before they venture into something better then just webpages with say facebook chat and gmail ... by that time they might want to move on to a full computer.

Remember, these computers are not aimed at people on low income, but rather people who have no interest or know how to use a computer or even the internet.

DJGM said,

As good as Linux is, and given these PCs are likely to end up in households that aren't tech savvy, a lot of these people will expect it to work and run exactly like Windows does.

A web browser is a web browser. 30% of the world uses Firefox, and that is available by default on most distros. Chromium is also optional. The same can be said of OpenOffice, a lot of people use that on Windows and Linux. That's the good thing about open source software, it's available on multiple platforms.

DJGM said,

They'll
try to download Windows Live Messenger, and then ask "Why can't I get MSN to work?!?",

You don't even have to download software on Linux distros. The most common software comes with it. Firefox, OpenOffice, Empathy (IM client that connects to virtually every IM network including MSN), IRC client, Torrent Client, DVD burning, Music/Movie Player, Email Client, Gimp Image editor.

Now I think about it, It will be the other way around. People will ask - how do I create a CV, How do I fill out my tax forms/expenses, How do manage my database. Windows doesn't ship with these things. You have to pay for them, or in the case of MSN etc, where do they look for and download them from? Therefore at a cost of £98 the inclusion of Windows (Only XP would run on that hardware) and MS Office is financially non-viable. Sorry to burst your bubble.

DJGM said,

I predict some users will give up on Linux, the hard drive gets reformatted by "a friend who
knows about computers n stuff" and a version of Windows is installed in place of Linux.

So you are advocating piracy? Windows XP support is being discontinued, It would have to run an Anti-Virus/Firewall, It would need office software (who's going to buy/download/install that for them?), and getting windows drivers for the hardware might be impossible. Overall, the whole point of this is to provide a solution with the minimal of costs. Windows and Office licences are prohibitively expensive for a project such as this.

DJGM said,

Don't get me wrong, Linux is a great OS for all it's worth. I use it myself when I can. Sadly,
some people just "don't get it" and think, if it isn't Microsoft (or even Apple) ... it's s**t!

Don't get me wrong, but some people think Microsoft software is, as you put it "s**t!". Remember the purpose of this project is to provide access to the internet through a web browser, not a tricked out system. You must be mindful of the context in which these devices are going to be used.

farmeunit said,

I know what you mean though. I installed Linux on a couple of machines because I got tired of reformatting everytime they got infected with something. It worked for a while, but they never took the time to learn how to do anything else, so I put Windows back on and told them not to call me when they had problems I even had XP running in a VM for them.

maybe you should take the time to learn about windows, reformat because of a virus? you sure are entertaining

Shadowzz said,

maybe you should take the time to learn about windows, reformat because of a virus? you sure are entertaining

Because everyone knows how to fix every viruses?

Shadowzz said,

maybe you should take the time to learn about windows, reformat because of a virus? you sure are entertaining

I know about Windows, but sometimes it's easier to reformat than spend 3 or 4 hours on a virus, especially since I'm not getting paid for it. I do have better things to do. Plus some viruses leave behind remnants and better to be safe than sorry in my opinion.

SCRISP said,
Roll out better Internet first, to make people actually want to use it.

4-5mb down (depending on the time of the day)
1mb up.

3km from bt exchange and no cable in the area. I want cable.

richardsim7 said,

40mb down, 10mb up - can't complain!

Coverage is crap. Only big built up areas have the upgraded exchanges.

Limited to 100GB usage allowance also.

SCRISP said,
Roll out better Internet first, to make people actually want to use it.

Agreed. If we all had access to internet at cost (run by a non profit), then perhaps more people could afford to go online. For some it's prohibitively expensive.

but.... I don't think 9.2million adults lack internet access in the UK due to its cost.

Some people just feellike they don't need it... the PC could be offered for free and many still wouldn't take it.

"In an effort to avoid competition with the current market, the systems will be sold in a variety of online centres"

All you need is a...

Examinus said,
"In an effort to avoid competition with the current market, the systems will be sold in a variety of online centres"

All you need is a...

Yeah the irony wasn't lost on me either. That said though, you can get internet in libraries now, so it wouldn't be too hard. Does seem like something that would take off in places like PC World though.