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Intel aims low-cost K-12 laptop at emerging markets

Mar 26, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 8 views

Intel has created an ultra-low-cost laptop for school children in emerging markets. The “ClassMatePC” is available with Linux or Windows XP, comes with an “educational feature set,” and is part of a program in which Intel plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years.

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Intel describes the ClassMatePC as a rugged device with features similar to mainstream PCs. It's based on a mobile Celeron processor and is equipped with local (flash-based) storage and a built-in wireless network interface. Additionally, the unit sports a water-resistant keyboard and comes with a theft-control feature based on a network-issued digital certificate.

Intel's ClassMatePC

Intel says the ClassMatePC evolved from its “World Ahead Program,” which also includes efforts in 30 countries to train 10 million teachers. The company plans to invest $1 billion in the program over the next five years, it said. Initially, the device is shipping in volume to Brazil and Mexico. Intel also plans to pilot the device in Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. During its first year of production, the small laptop will support nine languages, including English, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

What's under the hood?

The ClassMatePC is powered by an Intel Mobile Celeron Processor ULV clocked at 900MHz, with a 400MHz FSB (front-side bus) and zero L2 cache. It has 256MB of RAM, and 1GB of flash memory when used with Linux. When fitted with Windows XP, 2GB of flash memory is required.

Input/output ports are said to include:

  • Stereo two-channel audio, with built-in speakers/mic, and external audio out/mic in
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 802.11b/g wireless LAN with antenna
  • Touchpad with left and right buttons
  • Trusted Platform Module 1.2

The ClassMatePC measures 9.6 x 7.7 x 1.7 inches (245 x 196 x 44mm), and weighs 2.86 pounds (1.3kg). It has a 7-inch WVGA (800 x 480) LCD module attached via an LVDS (low-voltage, differential signal) interface, and illuminated by an LED backlight. It comes with a six-cell battery with adapter, said to last for four hours of use.

On the software side, Intel says the ClassMatePC provides an “integrated educational feature set” said to promote teacher-student and teacher-parent collaboration. The device is available with Mandriva Discovery 2007 or Metasys Classmate 2.0, apparently a Brazilian distribution built just for the device. Other software includes OpenOffice, Pegasus Note Taker (by Intel), and various teacher and parental control programs. Alternatively, the unit is also available with Microsoft XP Professional and Microsoft Office.

Linux-powered OLPC

Other ultra low-cost PC efforts

The ClassMatePC appears to resemble another low-cost laptop aimed at the K-12 set — the Linux-based OLPC (One Laptop per Child) device — albeit with a faster processor, and apparently a more aggressive availability schedule. For its part, the OLPC project says it has a commitment from eight nations to test 2,500 OLPC Linux laptops in the next several months.

In other news, Intel rival AMD recently sold off its ultra-low-cost PC that had also targeted developing nations.

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