I just ordered the world's cheapest laptop

Brand new for $150. That's right, $150. With free shipping. From Sweden. Larry Dignan's blog post on ZDNet about the Medison Celebrity laptop set off a flurry of excitement here at TechRepublic last week. Sure, the Celebrity is a bare-bones kind of deal (14-inch LCD, Intel Celeron 1.5 GHz chip, 40 GB hard drive, 256 MB of memory, Fedora Red Hat and office apps pre-installed), but at $150, heck, I can stock up and just pull a fresh laptop out of the closet every time one breaks. I can accidentally leave my laptop in a hotel room on a business trip or spill coffee on the keyboard without the world instantly coming to an end. Seriously, I think an affordable, stripped-down machine like this one would make a great secondary, semi-disposable portable computer for those of us who don't need to do a lot of power computing on the road. Even TechRepublic content guru Bill Detwiler wants one as a Christmas present for his four-year-old daughter. For months Bill has been eyeing various starter machines for his young prodigy, and at $150, the Celebrity sounds like the best deal going, at least on paper. But is it really the Right Tool for the Job? TechRepublic senior editor Mark Kaelin is chomping at the bit to find out and has volunteered to personally donate an extra 256 MB of RAM to the cause just to see the Medison Celebrity really scream.

First, though, we have to get our eager mitts on one of these babies. I've already placed my order with 2Checkout.com, but I've been told I'm looking at a four- to six-week wait, minimum (and possibly up to three months). And the longer I wait, I'm sure the more my coworkers' and friends' jeering, skeptical comments will get to me. These suspicious buggers have been sending me links like these for almost a week:

Comment to an Engadget article:

Reasons not to trust Medison, manufacturer of the Celebrity laptop:

  • They're a Swedish company without a Swedish address or phone number
  • Their only address appears to be a residential mail drop in the UK
  • shared with a number of companies that appear to be barely legitimate
  • Their UK office doesn't have a phone number
  • A Google search for "Medison" turns up nothing
  • The laptop photo appears to be that of a different company's product
  • You can't build a laptop for $150. The LCD panel itself costs at least $70 in volume

From Slashdot:

The more you dig into the details of this company the more fishy it starts to seem. I would suggest any potential buyers be wary on this one.

From 2Checkout.com (the company that actually processes orders for the Medison Celebrity) in response to a post in the Forums section of their site:

Given the pricing and presentation, your doubts and concerns regarding the Medison Celebrity are understandable and we sympathize with your apprehension. If you are unsure about your purchase you may well be better served to stand by see how the situation plays out. Doubts regarding the integrity of 2Checkout or our desire to provide safe, simple, service oriented online transaction are without merit however, and even if you choose not to purchase this product we hope for future opportunities to provide you with an e-commerce solution you can trust for both your sales and purchases online.

Oh man. When Medison's own retail partner is publicly distancing itself from the company and its product, can that be a good sign? And finally, a friend sent me this:

From Flipshark.com: The Romanian Laptop Scam

In the past few months this scam has become an epidemic victimizing an endless number of eBay users. This scam is running so rampant, that by the time one scammer's auction is reported and shut down, another two have taken its place. Basically the scam is carried out as follows: The scammer sets up a fake (or shill) auction selling brand new high ticket items. The items most commonly used in perpetrating this scam are computers, laptops (ibooks/imacs), cameras, and other expensive electronics.

My first reaction: Silence punctuated by nervous laughter. Second reaction: Snarky e-mail to my friend. "But this is different. This is a Swedish laptop scam." Third reaction: Check my credit card statement for fraudulent purchases. Every five minutes. For seven days straight. And cuss our executive editor Jason Hiner up and down the halls of TechRepublic for setting us on the trail of the Celebrity in the first place. (Damn his oily hide.) But the truth is, no matter how jaded we all think we've become as consumers, greed really does spring eternal, at least when it comes to tech toys that we can test and crack open. And it's not just base greed, either. I, for one, want to believe the Medison Celebrity is the real thing because I want to believe that corporate do-goodism is alive and well in the world. So I'm shaking off my paranoia and making a bold prediction. Four to six weeks from now, we will unveil a Right Tool image gallery of the Medison Celebrity on TechRepublic. And to the twenty or so doomsaying mockers (you all know who you are) who have been spamming me with consumer fraud alerts for the past seven days? Every single one of you has ended your messages to me the same way: "The Medison Celebrity is obviously fake. But if you do get one, and it actually works, be sure to tell me. Because I'll want one too."

Folks, start saving those pennies. $1.67 a day for the next 90 days should about do it.

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