Phoenix based Symple PC, which offered refurbished “web workstations” running Ubuntu for $89, has evidently ridden off into the night of no return. Since at least August 24, the company’s website has said the product is “No Longer Availabe,” although the website remains operational. Numerous attempts to contact the company for clarification have gone unanswered.
The venture was the brainchild of Jason Spisak, whose history with Linux and FOSS goes back to being the co-founder and marketing director Lycoris, which made news in 2003 when Walmart offered the Linux distro preinstalled on $199 PCs. FOSS Force first told you about the Symple PC back in March, not long after the company’s official launch.
“I conceived the idea for Symple PC Web Workstations while visiting an e-waste recycling center,” he told FOSS Force at the time. “The Snowden revelations were fresh in my mind, and I had also just watched a documentary about the scope of our global e-waste problem the day before. Walking through the place it hit me: I could bring together a need to actively mitigate e-waste and protect privacy with my passion to get Linux pre-installed on affordable computers for schools, non-profits and businesses in a single project.”
The Symple PCs sought to be more than merely refurbished discarded desktops with fresh installations of Linux. Because they where built using a variety of used components the specs on individual machines varied, but all met a minimum requirement of at least 2 GB RAM, 80 GB SATA hard drive or larger, and a 2.8 GHz P4 processor or faster. They came enclosed in a new case built entirely of recycled materials, were “rigorously” bench tested to find faulty components, and were covered by a one year full replacement warranty. Although the company was targeting SMBs, they also offered to ship single units to consumers.
Evidently, the testing wasn’t rigorous enough, as the product seemed to be plagued with dependability issues from the start. Almost immediately after we published our first article on the desktops, we began to hear stories from consumers about Symple PCs that died after only a couple of days use. However, the company stood behind it’s warranty and immediately shipped replacement units.
Spisak also showed that his heart was in the right place. In early May, after learning from one of Ken Starks’ columns on FOSS Force that Starks’ nonprofit Reglue had lost a major supplier of used computers because he wouldn’t transition from using Linux boxes to Microsoft Surface Pro or Windows, Spisak sent us an email:
That’s like someone saying their donation can only go to feed the school kids General Mills products for lunches instead of organic, locally grown, real food because its what the well-off donor grew up on and serves to their employees. Especially now that Apple and Google are such a big part of education, even if it is not FOSS, Microsoft isn’t what kids will be using in the future at work. Feel free to quote me on that.
To that end, my company would like to match that $1000 donation in Symple PCs to make up for any shortfall Ken is experiencing from them this year…. Problem solved.
He followed through on this promise, which Starks covered in a later column.
At this point, it looks as if Symple PC was a noble experiment that didn’t work out — which is just too bad. If it’d been successful, a lot of toxic waste would’ve been kept out of landfills, at least for a year or two. The $89 price tag would also be a big help towards meeting the computer needs for struggling mom and pop businesses. Mark this down as a good try.
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