Energy Efficient PCs: Zonbu, Verdiem

We’re not sure why a bid for energy efficiency is going to make consumers want to accept the unappreciated subscription PC model — but startup Zonbu thinks they will. The New York Times profiles the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that will start selling a $99 low power mini PC this summer with subscriptions priced from $12.95 to $19.95 per month.

We had a coffee meeting scheduled with CEO Grégoire Gentil last week, but pesky things like the All Star game parade and cell phone batteries got in the way. We’ll have to check out the hardware in the next meeting, but you can review the gear stats here and the PC comes with 20 applications like Mozilla and Skype.

PC makers are trying to make both hardware and software more energy efficient, and while some consumers are willing to pay a premium for green goods, we’re not convinced yet if consumers will take to the subscription model just to lower their energy costs and feel good about themselves.

Given that PCs are not nearly as efficient as they could be, Silicon Valley giants are working hard to reduce the power consumption. Google, Intel and others recently launched the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which aims to reach a 90% efficiency target for power supplies.

Last week Seattle-based PC power management startup Verdiem said it had raised $8.33 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and six other investors. John Cook’s VC Blog says that Verdiem’s Surveyor software “costs about $25 per PC – has annual cost savings of $20 to $45 for each PC.”

That software manages a company’s PCs from a central location, turning off computers and monitors (or putting them into sleep mode) at set times during the day. It might be cheaper to ask all of your employees to turn off their computers, but anyone who has worked in an office knows that since leaving a computer on is a whole lot easier than shutting it down, this analog eco-friendly and cost-saving plan is difficult to enforce.

Adena chatted with Verdiem CEO Kevin Klustner earlier this year and he told her:

“I think of ourselves as a company focused on providing IT solutions to manage its energy consumption. We’re not looking at it in the energy management space, there are a whole series of solutions for the IT professional to be able to obtain energy efficiency – start on PCs, work on other devices as well.”

The cost of the software supposedly is paid back in “well under a year,” he said. Those figures only work out in large companies that maintain hundreds of computers. In a comment over at GreenTechies.com, site visitor Bill Hedge notes that Verdiem’s SURVEYOR software is positioned to organizations with 300 or more PCs. Meanwhile in an interview over at EcoIron, Mr. Klustner notes that Verdiem typically works best with customers that have 5,000 PCs or more.

Additional reporting by Adena.

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