Palo Alto start-up Zonbu will begin selling a simplified Linux-based PC for $99, which runs on roughly one-twentieth the power of an average computer. The idea behind the computer is to provide a subscription-based, appliance-like computer tailored to consumers who have no computer expertise.

The 15-watt PC uses a low-power Intel-compatible microprocessor from Via Technologies. It comes with 4GB of flash memory instead of a disk drive, and lacks a fan. On the software side, it will run a Gentoo version of the Linux operating system and will come with a range of software applications like the Mozilla Firefox browser, Skype voice-over-Internet service, OpenOffice software suite and many games.

"The market we want to target is the second PC in the home," Grégoire Gentil, chief executive of Zonbu, said. "If you want to give a PC to your kids or put it in the kitchen, this is a good candidate."
There is a $12.95 monthly subscription charge, which includes 25GB of online storage, maintenance and tech support, plus new programs every six months. The idea of subscription-based personal computers is neither new nor popular. Nevertheless, it can save up to $10 a month in electricity, compared to a standard 200-watt PC, and it has EPEAT Gold status for being made entirely out of earth-friendly materials, something the energy-conscious will appreciate.