People always seem to be surprised that an operating system can run entirely from a USB thumb drive. Imagine what they'll think of FXI Technologies' Cotton Candy, a thumb-drive-sized device with smartphone-class computing power. This computer-on-a-stick features a Cortex A9 CPU core backed by a Mali-400MP GPU, both based on ARM technology. 1GB of RAM is included, but it looks like you'll have to provide your own storage. The microSD slot is said to support cards up to 64GB.
A male USB connector provides power and allows the Cotton Candy to act as a mass storage device, while a Micro USB port enables other devices to plug into the system. Meanwhile, audio/video output is piped through a HDMI 1.3 connector. On the wireless front, the Cotton Candy supports 802.11n Wi-Fi in addition to Bluetooth 2.1. Android 4.0 and Ubuntu Linux for ARM are the only OS options listed at the moment.
With a $199 pre-order price, the Cotton Candy isn't cheap. It's hard to beat the size and 21-gram weight, though. FXI claims the thing can play 1080p video encoded with H.264, so it could be powerful enough to serve as a basic media system. While in some ways an elegant solution, supplying power via USB seems a little awkward for something that's supposed to plug into a TV's HDMI input. Life would be much simpler if everyone's smartphone had mini HDMI and USB ports.
FXI has launched an official developer community for the Cotton Candy, which will be available in limited quantities until the third quarter of the year. The device is expected to see a wider commercial release in time for the holidays.
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