Solu: Redesigning The Personal Computer?

Can the Finnish company overhaul how we use our computers?


We now have the technology to build space elevators, robots that can replicate human emotions and chairs which allow you to get a workout while sitting down watching TV. They might not all be real things yet, but real people have real plans to make them happen.

But the personal computer - central to so much of what we do - hasn’t changed that much. Finnish entrepreneur, Kristoffer Lawson says: ‘It’s still a box, a screen and, if you’re using a desktop, a keyboard.’

What goes into that ‘box’, however, has changed quite a bit. But in many ways, Lawson is right. Most laptops are still big enough to cause discomfort when being carried around. And while smartphones and tablets are portable, they lack the processing power to complete complex tasks.

Lawson believes that cloud computing demands its own personal computing device. His company, Solu, is looking to provide such a product. On first look, the Solu looks like a coaster. Described as ‘the smallest general purpose computer ever created’, it’s just four inches wide. Its size, in particular, has caused many to presume that its creators are looking to provide an alternative to smartphones. This, according to Lawson, is not the case.

The company’s aim is to provide a portable, yet powerful, computer, which can be directly plugged into a monitor, ready for use at the office. It has a 2.3GHz processor, is 4K ready, and has a reliable battery. While it can be linked to a monitor, it can also operate as a standalone device, and has a touchscreen.

On the face of it, it would be easy to draw similarities between the Solu and the Mac Mini. Solu’s operating system, according to Lawson however, promises to be more visually stimulating than OS X or Windows.

In an interview in the Guardian, Lawson states: ‘There are no windows, no menu bars, no icons. All that goes away. The user interface is built around working together in an internet connected environment. Say goodbye to the personal computer. This is all based on collaboration,’

Another key distinction is that Solu’s OS will be the first to extensively use the cloud - with the company’s website stating that it was built around collaboration. The product’s interface, however, will not be the only major change. There will also be a new Spotify-esq business model, where users pay a subscription fee to get unlimited storage and apps. This will be on top of the initial purchase price, a figure that’s thought to be $449.

Solu’s success won’t just be attributed to price and performance, but the extent to which people are ready to drop the operating systems that they’ve come to know so well, both at work and at home. But Lawson remains optimistic. In his interview with the Guardian he saw no reason why Solu couldn’t be up there with Facebook and Google.

But his optimism isn’t shared by everyone. Many point to the difficulty of selling a new operating system to everyone when iOS, Android and Windows are all so strong. Lawson, however, is in it for the long haul, and claims that he’s been thinking about this project for over a decade.

You can still look at Solu’s Kickstarter page here

Driving towards clouds small

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