The low-cost miniature computer Raspberry Pi will debut in January 2012, according to a blog post on the Raspberry Foundation Web site.

The UK-based non-profit organization is preparing to launch the diminutive system for as little as $25 early next year, following some additional testing on the hardware and software components. The brainchild behind this super-affordable computer is the foundation's head honcho and game developer David Braben, who hopes that it will be an educational platform for children, especially in developing countries.

Despite being trimmed to the size of a credit card, the Linux-based systems, which run on ARM processors, are said to be powerful enough to withstand intense gaming and high-definition video. By plugging the device into a TV and a keyboard, via the USB hub, the Raspberry Pi functions just as a desktop PC. The tiny computer is also said to feature an audio output and an SD card slot.

The finished product will be offered in two models, one at $25 and the other at $35, which has double the RAM at 256MB and an Ethernet socket. The company is also said to release a hardware piece that can be added to either model of the Raspberry Pi. The Gertboard, as it is called, is an expansion board which gives the option of flashing LEDs, drive motors and run sensors.

The organization said that no pre-orders will be taken until testing is complete.

Liz Upton from Raspberry said that if the batch test performs well, the first 10 boards will be auctioned off.

Once we're happy that this test run is fine, we'll be pushing the button immediately on full-scale manufacture in more than one factory, Upton blogged last Thursday.

The computing project resembles previous low-cost initiatives such as the One Laptop Per Child Scheme at $100 per device and the $35 tablet which was unveiled last year in India.