Mobile broadband is on the rise, and so is the world’s Internet user base. But that’s not the complete picture. A digital divide still exists, particularly in developing economies, where access to online resources is limited to an elite few. Sometimes, this is economically driven, although sometimes political — such as in North Korea, where statistically 0% of the population have Internet access.

VIA Technologies plans to bridge the digital divide through a very cheap personal computer powered by Android. The aPC — or “Android PC” — costs just $49, but it provides a “complete PC experience at the fraction of the cost.”

The aPC runs on a custom Android system, which is built for keyboard and mouse input. A full set of I/O ports is also included, which enables a user to connect the aPC to a monitor or TV. Some specs:

  • VIA 800 MHz processor
  • 512MB DDR3 memory
  • 2GB NAND Flash
  • Built-in 2D/3D Graphics, with resolution up to 720p
  • HDMI, VGA, 4 USB 2.0 ports, audio out, mic in
  • microSD slot
  • 10/100 ethernet
  • 170 x 85 mm size, neo-ITX standard

The aPC is mostly a cloud-oriented computer. The creators say that the purpose of a PC has now evolved, in that computers now mainly connect to the Internet, and that “[i]t is the Internet that now defines computing.” As such, traditional computers are considered to be “expensive and overpowered,” and software is called “bloated.”

But aside from cloud-based apps, the aPC also comes shipped with apps like a web browser, Angry Birds, and the like. Of course, the computer also has access to Google Play, which gives the user hundreds of thousands of apps for download.

aPC has closed pre-orders, so that the creators can meet with demand in their first round of pre-orders. However, if this is a project that interests you, you can still sign up for the notification list.

Check out the video below with VIA Technologies VP Richard Brown presenting the aPC concept and demonstrating the actual device at TEDx in Shanghai. The intro is a bit lengthy, but you can jump to the 6:30 mark, where the fun starts.

Aside from smartphones and tablets, projects like the aPC are taking the post-PC concept to a whole new level. This does not just bring the computer (or mobile device) more accessible to the usual consumer set, but also to those unable to spend hundreds of dollars for a desktop or notebook computer.

Will the aPC help bridge the digital divide? It certainly is an interesting idea, and if more manufacturers — aside from VIA — can focus on this market, then Android might just become a dominant OS in the desktop market, as well.