Is North Korea really making its own PCs?

By Liam Tung on May 27, 2011 9:45 AM
Filed under Hardware

Whatever, it's running Linux.

The notion of North Korea making its own laptops has caught the technology world’s attention, not least because few in the West seem to believe it. 

The North Korean national broadcaster took its citizens through a single factory where it was claimed three computer models were being manufactured, according to PC World

Unlike the sophisticated methods used in China’s Silicon Valley, Shenzen, the North Korean report showed eight workers at a bench installing keyboards and checking hinges on laptops. 

Key specifications offered were that it was a netbook-sized laptop with a 2.5 hour battery life that ran a North Korean custom Linux operating system called “Red Star”, and included a web browser and two USB-ports.

A spokesman said the computers’ devices and programs were all developed “using our own expertise”. 

The report by IDG's Japan bureau chief, Martyn Williams, noted that the factory was identified as belonging to the “Information Technology Institute”, which matched a unit of Pyongyang’s Korea Computer Center (KCC).

The KCC’s goal was to “clinch a place in the world market in the coming few years in the development of Linux-based operating system and appliocations (sic), computer-aided high technology and services,” according to its website.

But after Williams posted images of the North Korean laptops on his North Korea Tech blog, a reader pointed out that it looked exactly the same as Siemen’s Sylvania, which sold for US$100 at US pharmaceutical retailer CVS.

While the current Sylvania netbook runs Windows CE, its 2009 predecessor the G Netbook Meso ran Canonical's Ubuntu Netbook Remix and, similar to North Korea's netbooks, had a 3.5 hour battery life, according to an earlier Linux Insider review.

 
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