They still don't know whether they'll be doing it over here, but AOL has fulfilled one of its fondest wishes in the US: the Microsoft and Apple-free AOL PC. The computer in question is being flogged through Wal-Mart, the high temple of low priced shopping: it's not a bad spec, with 800MHz Pentium-compatible processor, 128MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, CD-ROM, 10/100 Ethernet, keyboard and speakers -- no monitor -- for $200, or around £130. It runs Lindows 2.0, the Linux-based OS that's heard of Windows, and according to reviews it's actually none too shabby. It runs Office 2000, according to one, but how well and how much remain open questions.
The last time I paid £130 for a new computer, it was a ZX Spectrum twenty years ago, and that was great value for money. There haven't been many computers at that price point since, which is a shame -- it's all very well for lard-arsed journalists such as myself to go wittering on about what great value a £2,000 laptop is with a 2GHz Pentium leg-heater and better graphics than Michelangelo, but for huge swathes of the population £2,000 might as well be £2m. The fact that it simultaneously demonstrates that no, you don't need to send Uncle Bill a wad of used twenties every time you fancy doing a spot of browsing is a bonus, and if it gets people thinking about what they're buying and why they pay the prices they do then I'll be over the moon.
But as I said, there's as yet no sign whether it'll come over here. I just hope that Alan Sugar and his Brentwood Mafia still have a taste for hard-hitting high tech action: this is exactly the sort of arena their particular brand of fisticuffs works best in. Bet he could get it down to under the ton...