Xi3 modular PC reborn as Chrome OS desktop, promises independence from local storage

Chromebooks a tad too mobile for you? Sensing the market is at last ready for Google's web-based OS, Xi3 decided to ship the ChromiumPC, an updated version of the modular, Chrome OS-based desktop it trotted out as a concept last year. The computer (also known as the 5 Series) has a processor module and two I/O ones -- a design whose promise is that installing a different operating system should be as easy as swapping out that first board. And, cheekily, the company expects it to go on sale July 4th, a day when Chromium OS owners can "declare their independence from the built-in obsolescence of other computers." Got that, folks? Your mature operating system and local storage are useless. No word yet on pricing, so here's hoping Chrome OS isn't a moot point or anything by the time we find out. Full PR after the break.

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Xi3 Corporation Announces Its ChromiumPC Modular Computer – the World's First Desktop Computer Running Google's Chrome Operating System

Based upon the patented Xi3 Computer Architecture, the ChromiumPC computer is a cube-like, small form factor, low-power (20Watts) dual-core modular computer that can be adapted to run other operating systems or to perform specialized functions. Xi3 Corp. has been developing the ChromiumPC since 2009. Pricing will be disclosed later this year, with General Availability expected in the second half of 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Xi3® Corporation today announced its ChromiumPC™ modular computer, the world's first desktop computer designed to run Google's Chrome operating system.

"Based upon feedback and interest from our initial proof-of-concept and evaluation customers, we have already begun developing new Primary and Secondary I/O Modules"

First disclosed by Xi3 Corp. in 2009, the ChromiumPC is a version of the company's Xi3 Modular Computer™ which was formally unveiled in 2010 and named by the Consumer Electronics Association as an Innovations Award Winner in the Computer Hardware category for the 2011 International CES trade show.

"The Xi3 Computer Architecture is designed to support any x86-based operating system, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and other open source-based operating systems," said Jason A. Sullivan, president and CEO of Xi3 Corp. "Although we've been promoting, discussing and working on modular computers for some time, we feel the market is now ready for a desktop computer with a cloud-based operating system like the one offered by Google. If someone chooses to switch their ChromiumPC to run a different operating system, it's as easy as swapping out one of the three boards inside the computer.

"Historically, the vast majority of operating systems have been installed and run locally on computers. But as technology has advanced and people have become more and more comfortable with using Web-based applications and storing data away from their computer, specifically 'in the cloud,' it only makes sense that operating systems will become cloud-based. In fact, we expect that over time we'll see many operating systems that are wire-bound and require the computer to be connected to the Internet to run, and we will likely support these new operating systems as well."

Modularity Explained for the ChromiumPC and Xi3 Modular Computer

Each Xi3 Modular Computer, including the ChromiumPC, is housed in an aluminum chassis that holds three small but interconnected boards (or modules), namely

The Processor Module™,
The Primary I/O Module™, and
The Secondary I/O Module™.

Taken in concert these three modules form the basis of what has been the classic motherboard, with the Processor Module housing the microprocessor and RAM, the Primary I/O Module typically housing the majority of the external communications ports, and the Secondary I/O Module typically housing Ethernet, video and power connections.

Unlike traditional computers, however, the Xi3 Computer Architecture makes it possible to change the so-called personality and/or functionality of an Xi3 Modular Computer, including the ChromiumPC. This is done in eight easy steps:

1. Power down and disconnect the Modular Computer from all external connections
2. Remove the four screws from one of the honeycomb-shaped and chrome-plated sideplates
3. Remove the sideplate from the Modular Computer chassis
4. Slide the three interconnected modules out of the chassis
5. Remove one of the I/O Modules and replace it with a new I/O Module
6. Reinsert the three interconnected modules back inside the chassis
7. Reattach the sideplate to the chassis
8. Reconnect all external connections and power-up the Modular Computer

"Based upon feedback and interest from our initial proof-of-concept and evaluation customers, we have already begun developing new Primary and Secondary I/O Modules," Sullivan explained. "We also have partners beginning to develop their own proprietary I/O Modules as well. We expect to have the first of our new I/O Modules available during this summer, each of which will work with the ChromiumPC, as well as Xi3 Modular Computers that run other operating systems."

The ChromiumPC will be powered by a dual- or single-core 64-bit, x86-based processor, housed in a chassis measuring 4.0- x 3.656- x 3.656-inches and available in multiple colors, including a chrome-plated chassis. ChromiumPC pricing will be announced later this year, with additional specifications announced at that time. General availability for the ChromiumPC is expected in the second half of 2011.

General Availability of the Xi3 Modular Computer Slated for the 4th of July

"Given today's announcement about our plans for the ChromiumPC, we felt it important to also let our friends know that formal sales of the Xi3 Modular Computer will begin on July 4, 2011," Sullivan said. "Since the Xi3 Computer Architecture allows owners of the Xi3 Modular Computer to declare their independence from the built-in obsolescence of other computers, we felt that American Independence Day would be a great day to begin selling the 5 Series model of the Xi3 Modular Computer."

More details about the General Availability of the Xi3 Modular Computer (5 Series model) will be available before the 4th of July