Gumstix's Linux-based miniature computer is a fresh example of the big potential of Lilliputian devices.
At 35 mm by 103 mm, about the size of a pack of chewing gum and only slightly heavier, the Gumstix netstix 200xm-cf uses a 200-MHz Intel XScale motherboard and offers 10/100 Ethernet connectivity. Gumstix has a largely cult following among robotics enthusiasts and engineers seeking an inexpensive platform on which to build technology prototypes.
A netstix 200xm-cf with 64 Mbytes of RAM and 16 Mbytes of flash memory is priced at $165 each for orders of 1,000 or more units. Before the emergence of Gumstix and other miniature-computer makers such as Realm Systems, whose computer also runs on Linux, developers paid thousands of dollars to chipmakers for testing platforms.
Products based on Gumstix are starting to emerge. Time Link International uses embedded Gumstix technology for a time-and-attendance tracking device it sells. Gumstix also powers a prototype of Polymer Vision's pocket electronic-document reader. And Gumstix CEO Gordon Kruberg says he knows of a few "gumwad" clusters of Gumstix boards being tested for applicability in data centers.
But the real sweet spot for Gumstix will be in developing mobile applications that run on embedded devices used in places where a PC wouldn't fit, says Dave Hylands, a Linux software developer and robotics enthusiast. "Gumstix boards require very little power," he says, "which makes them ideal for mobile applications where size, weight, and battery life are all factors."