The tablet-format Classmate, which was unveiled on Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (see Special Report), will let manufacturers build Classmate PCs that can be used either as a standard clamshell laptop or — with a 180° swivel of the display — as a touchscreen tablet. As with most netbooks, it will run on Intel's Atom processor.
"Education is one of the best ways to improve the future for individuals, villages or nations," Lila Ibrahim, the general manager of Intel's emerging-markets platform group, said in a statement on Friday. "There are 1.3 billion school-age children around the world and of those only five percent have access to a PC or the internet. The IT industry has a huge opportunity to contribute to how technology can improve students' learning and students' lives."
Ibrahim's division developed the reference design for the convertible Classmate PC based on ethnographic research. Child-friendly features include a water-resistant keyboard and a sturdy frame. Another feature is dubbed "palm rejection" — in tablet mode, the user can rest their palm on the touchscreen while writing, without the screen registering the palm's pressure as input.
The original Classmate, which appeared in 2006, is widely seen as having kicked off the 'netbook' concept even before Asus released its popular Eee 701.
On Friday, Intel also announced its Learning Series, a project that will try to make sure there is proper co-ordination between educational hardware, software and services in various countries. The idea is for local manufacturers to use Intel's latest Classmate PC reference design to create customized versions of the Classmate PC according to local needs, and to preload those machines with locally relevant software.
"Our involvement with software and hardware developers ensures that the Intel Learning Series is culturally relevant, sustainable and supports local economies," Ibrahim said.
"Through the Intel Learning Series, we are gathering the great minds and experiences of the IT industry to create a fun and rewarding environment for the students to learn and develop the skills they need in the 21st century."
According to Intel, tablet-format Classmate PCs will be made in the UK by the manufacturer CMS; in France, by NEC; in Chile, by Olidata; in Australia, by ASI; in China, by Hanvon; in Canada, by MDG; and in the US, by CTL, Equus and M&A. Pricing and availability dates have not yet been announced.