CherryPal, which could be the name of a friendly summer treat, is actually a new cloud-based, low-cost, mini-desktop computer that could signal the end of consumers having to figure out operating systems.

In cloud computing, most or all of the applications and at least some of the storage is kept on the Internet, the cloud. One of the main advantages is that the user doesn't need to deal with updates, operating systems, or incompatible software. A downside is that the computer has little use if the network connection is down or unavailable.

Two Watts, No Moving Parts

Announced Monday, the Linux-based device uses a maximum of two watts of power -- about three percent of what most desktops consume. It has no moving parts and is priced at $249 without monitor or keyboard.

It comes with the open-source OpenOffice productivity suite, a branded media player and IM client, iTunes, the Firefox Web browser and 50GB of online storage. It is expected to become available later this month. The maker, Mountain View, Calif.-based CherryPal, described its first product as "the most energy-efficient and affordable computer available."

Doug Bell, an analyst with industry research firm IDC, said the price was "a little expensive, given the specs and capabilities." He noted that some of the limitations, such as 4GB of internal flash storage, could be overcome with an external drive through a USB port. He also described the Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and the two USB ports as "nice touches" for such a device.

Bell added that he expects to see more cloud computers for the consumer market because there's a demand. The ideal customer, Bell said, would be someone who wants a second PC at home, primarily as an Internet browser. He pointed out that there are some similar client-only machines in enterprises, but said a cloud computer for the consumer is an "interesting" product.

80 Percent Fewer Components

According to the company, the CherryPal has 80 percent fewer components than a regular PC and weighs 10.5 ounces. Dimensions are 1.3 inches by 5.8 inches by 4.2 inches -- about the size of a paperback book. With no operating system and no software upgrades, it is being touted as a "no-virus computer experience."

The computer uses a Freescale Semiconductor mobileGT MPC5121e processor running at 400 MHz. The Power Architecture-based processor uses 90-nanometer CMOS technology with ultra-low power consumption. CherryPal noted that the processor is built around a triple-core architecture, the Power Architecture core, a 3-D graphics processor -- which the company says is "capable of gaming-class 3-D rendering"-- and a CD-quality audio processor core.

Also included are 256GB of DDR2 DRAM, a RJ-45 jack for 10/100 Ethernet, a VGA DB-15 display-out jack, and a stereo audio-out 3.5mm jack.

The company behind this category-defining product was founded by Max Seybold, who describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur." CherryPal said its corporate goals are to make personal computers that are environmentally friendly, user friendly, and affordable.