It's not easy being a PC maker. Their core market is under attack from smartphones and tablets while prices are being eroded by ultra-budget bare bones hardware such as the raspberry Pi (whose sales just sped past the 2 million mark).
This hasn't escaped the attention of Dell, who've been working hard to meet the rise and rise of the ultra-cheap bare-bones computer head on via Project Ophelia.
Ophelia is an Android-powered stick PC that plugs into a spare HDMI slot, connecting up to mice and keyboards using Bluetooth. Prices have yet to be confirmed but it appears that it should be around US$100.
I managed to score some serious hands on time with Ophelia at a Dell event in Australia, and can say that she is definitely a piece of alright. The recipe for Ophelia is pretty straightforward. Take a USB stick, put it on a high protein diet so it fattens out a tad and replace its USB plug with an HDMI tip. Stir in a dollop of Android goodness and voila! Ophelia.
The really neat thing about Ophelia is that she'll transform any HDMI equipped TV or monitor into a fully functioning Android powered computer. She can pretty much can do anything you'd expect any Android-powered widget to do, and the guy on the booth said that she'd probably have little to no difficulties handling streaming media (thanks to the VLC Android app), plus the usual stuff such as web surfing and email or downloading apps from Google's app store. She's also practically invisible when plugged into an HDMI port and there's no cool fan noise.
For anyone travelling, Ophelia is also likely to be a godsend (provided their hotel room TV has an HDMI port and they've remembered to pack a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse). Ophelia's charms appear equally compelling for businesses subjecting staff to hot-desking.
I wasn't able to find out which version of Android Ophelia was running, but in use she was buttery smooth and played nice with Bluetooth mice and keyboards.
Getting Ophelia set up is as easy as running a built-in setup wizard to pair up wireless peripherals while a Micro SD slot and two Micro USB ports mean that she can be expanded up to 64GB and hook up to a range of USB devices.
The Ophelia I got to play with also had a bunch of enterprise apps which could be used to download user profiles and applications, track usage and even remotely erase Ophelia should she be lost (and even though she'd be bit of a chubber compared to a USB stick, she's still small enough to be lost behind a seat cushion at home or on the bus). Dell also said that Ophelia will also have a bunch of cloud features which should help set Ophelia put some distance between herself and other similar hardware being cranked out of China.
Ophelia is due to launch at the end of this year. Watch this space.