Alex OS aims to make computers easy

The Broadband Company has launched a simplified OS called Alex, which it claims will allow novice computer users to browse the web, use email and more – without any training.

“12.2 million people don’t have a PC and 24% [of the UK population] have a computer and they just don’t get it,” Harry Drnec, marketing manager for the Newcastle-based company, told PC Pro. “Apple and Microsoft have left 40% of the population behind and made it too complicated.”

The Broadband Company’s answer to this problem, Alex, is based on the Ubuntu distribution of Linux, but there’s no sign of the traditional Gnome desktop. Instead, upon booting users are greeted with a pared-down desktop that provides direct links to common tasks such as Web, Email, People, Office, Play and Photo.

“Using a computer should be simple, it should be plain English,” says Drnec. “Why do I have to press a paperclip to send a document? Why don’t I just press Send [from within the document]?”

Alex’s Office application, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet and a viewer for PDFs and PowerPoint, is developed by a German company called SoftMaker. Drnec claims it’s Microsoft-compatible, but while the word processor supports DOCX documents the spreadsheet supports XLS files only.

According to Drnec, the People app is the killer. “We devised a system where just about every way to contact someone is there [next to their name in the app]. When I press Skype and he’s lighted up [to show he’s online] then it puts me straight to him – it doesn’t take me to the program.”

Alex users will have to pay The Broadband Company a £10 per month subscription fee, but in return the company promises you will never see pop-up boxes, they will provide security so users don’t need to worry about viruses, and they will get 10GB of online storage.

Alex is available bundled with a Celeron-powered 15.4in Clevo laptop, as reviewed on our sister site Expert Reviews, and it was more than capable of running the operating system without delays. It costs £400, on top of which Alex users will need to pay the £10 per month subscription fee.

Within two months, Drnec claims, there will be a software-only version of Alex that will work with computers up to five or six years old.

“We’re not in this to beat Apple or beat Gates,” says Drnec. “But we need new people online, and they’re never going to get online with Microsoft.”

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