USB stick plus monitor equals an Android computer

I doubt mobile computing will evolve to computers on a USB stick for most people, but this prototype device offering found by The Verge is certainly intriguing to a gadget geek like me. Called the Cotton Candy, the small device looks like a traditional USB flash drive with one extra hardware bit on the outside; an HDMI port. While the stick can be plugged into any computer’s USB slot, it works as a standalone computer as well, capable of running Android, Ubuntu Linux or, through a virtualization client, Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X.

We’ve seen “PC on a stick” products before, but the HDMI port helps make the Cotton Candy stand out. Attach a monitor to the HDMI port and a power supply to the USB jack and y0u’re up and running. Adding to the feature set is a microSD slot, and integrated Wi-Fi and BlueTooth radios; these wireless options provide both connectivity and support for a keyboard or a mouse.

Of course, if the Cotton Candy prototype ever makes it to market, don’t expect a full desktop or laptop level of performance. Internally, the device is expected to have the guts of a capable smartphone: 1.2 GHz Cortex A9 processor, 1 GB of memory, and a quad-core graphics chip supporting 1080p video encoding and playback. But with dimensions of 8 cm x 2.5 cm, you weren’t really expecting an 2.8 GHz multi-core desktop processor, were you?

While I like the mobile aspect of the Cotton Candy, a better use for the product may be to extend the feature set of a traditional laptop or computer. It can be used to transfer media from a mobile operating system to a desktop environment or for running Android inside Windows or Mac OS X as needed. Sure, it’s a very niche product, but we geeks often gravitate to such things!