[Web Informant] 16 December 2008: SecurePC may be too costly for what it delivers

David Strom david at strom.com
Tue Dec 16 14:19:15 EST 2008

Web Informant, 16 December 2008: SecurePC may be too costly for what
it delivers

Is $600 for a "netbook" too much to spend these days? Apparently so. I
tried out the SecurePC from 01com.com and while a nice package, the
price is a bit steep considering the competition.

The idea behind the SecurePC is a nifty one: put together a
stripped-down version of Windows XP that just can connect to the Web
and do nothing else. You do not have access to any local storage, so
your PC can't get infected from malicious Web sites or emails. You
can't download any programs. If it lives out on the Internet, you can
run it – the usual Flash and Java add-ons come with the machine.
Otherwise, forget it.

The notebook runs Intel's Atom processor, so it is quiet, cool, and
compact. The screen is bright but isn't going to win an awards for
size – it is a 10 inch diagonal and can run an external video monitor
in the odd resolution of 1280x960 because of its form factor, I guess.
And it comes with a solid state hard drive so there is one less moving
part and heat source to worry about.

I liked the design and feel of the machine's hard plastic case and
they way it boots up almost instantly – it takes longer to find your
wireless network than it does to bring up the overall system. The
keyboard is a bit cramped for me, particularly the comma and period
keys that are somewhat squished together. And it comes with three USB
ports, although I am not sure what you would connect to them other
than an external mouse. If you try to plug in a thumb drive, you
aren't going to get any files off it. The SecurePC does support USB 3G
broadband modems, but I didn't test any.

You can access network shares via the wired or wireless interfaces,
but again, I am not sure what you would do with the files when you see
them, unless you could run a auto-executing virtual machine session
across the network. To get an idea of how stripped-down this OS is,
you open up a rather sparse Control Panel. There isn't much you can
do, which I guess is good if you are getting this PC for grandma.

The disk storage is limited, and I had to play some games adjusting
the virtual memory settings that would also allow enough room for
temporary files: InTouch could spend some more time tweaking these
setings. Another drawback is that you can't upgrade your OS when
Microsoft issues the inevitable patches since you have to wait for
InTouch to release a new image of the machine's innards.

If you are paranoid and can live without any applications – other than
IE – than this is worth a look. It could be the perfect kitchen
computer, or a second machine to do a lot of Web searching or Webmail
on. The only real issue I have is the price. For $350, I can get a
Dell, Acer, HP mini that has a 10 inch screen and a full version of
Windows and larger hard drives, and for the price of the Secure PC I
can get a full-strength laptop with a 15 inch screen. And to make
things more complicated, Radio Shack.com is selling netbooks for $99,
plus the cost of a 3G broadband wireless plan from AT&T for $60 a
month for a two-year contract.

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