HP's me-too kid-friendly netbook

HP's me-too kid-friendly netbook

Summary: A 56k modem is standard on the new clamshell Classmate knockoff from HP - Can it succeed at home or abroad?

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Correction: HP's press literature originally noted that the Mini 100e would not include WiFi standard. While this computer can be configured without WiFi for developing markets, 802.11b/g will be included standard in mature markets.

HP announced an education-centered netbook today that not only looks a lot like an Intel Classmate clamshell PC, but also comes standard with a modem instead of WiFi. You can get the WiFi, of course, but that will push you above the $300 target price.

I'm afraid I can't get excited about this netbook.  Sure, it's fairly cheap and has some good ruggedization features that make it kid-friendly, but this is a netbook designed for emerging markets with little relevance in mature educational markets. While HP hasn't released pricing and will be setting prices on a "per deal basis," the netbook, dubbed the Mini 100e Education Edition, will go on sale in July.

Don't get excited about fall deployments, though.  If you want Windows, you're looking at Windows XP Home or Windows 7 Starter Edition. A Linux choice gets you SUSE Linux 11 which you could at least join to a domain or set up management tools, options not available on its Windows brethren. The standard modem is clearly a nod to the emerging markets in which this has a chance of success, but WiFi is a must in other settings.

All other configuration details essentially match those of most modern netbooks: Atom N455 processor and Intel NM10 Express chipset, 1GB of DDR3 memory and three or six-cell battery options. Ruggedization features match those of the Dell Latitude 2110 and Intel Classmate. According to HP's press release,

"HP Mini 100e also features a spill-resistant keyboard helping to ensure greater protection against spills and higher reliability in the classroom as well as an easy-to-see LED that indicates when the PC is connected to a network, thereby enabling better instructor monitoring."

Sigh. I know this is directed at the K-6 market, but I can't help but feel that it's neither cheap enough nor innovative enough to add much value in most classrooms. An iPod Touch could more cheaply provide access to a wide variety of resources and course content and has a syncing mechanism for easy management. It comes with WiFi, too, and is far more kid-sized than even the Mini. Dell's Latitude 2110 incorporates an entire "Connected Classroom" ecosystem and gives you access to Windows 7 Professional and Latitude management tools. Intel's Classmate offers a compelling software stack and hardware ecosystem as well. And if you're just talking price in developing markets, the OLPC XO is still kicking around. Both the Latitude and the Classmate could easily find applications K-8 and beyond as well, where the idea of 1:1 arguably has more merit anyway.

Sorry, I'm afraid this is a me-too offering. Come on, HP - wait another few months and leverage that big handheld company you just paid too much for. Then give me something really cool, new, and cheap the young kids can literally wrap their hands around. Not a WiFi-less rubberized netbook with crippled software for the low, low price of $300. Oh, wait, that's not actually very low. Never mind.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Mobility

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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7 comments
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  • Funny

    "A 56k modem is standard on the new clamshell Classmate knockoff from HP..."

    Do they still make those? ;-)
    Richard Flude
  • No Wi-Fi and a 56K ! Ridiculus !

    If its form emergent country, I think it will be better to use Wi-Fi instead 56k. Wi-Fi hotspot are growing fast in these country and Mesh Wi-Fi network too.

    Be serious HP.
    wifiman007
    • RE: HP's me-too kid-friendly netbook

      @wifiman007 Or maybe they understand what the market is and building WiFi into these particular model is useless.
      MSFTWorshipper
  • RE: HP's me-too kid-friendly netbook

    What's the current worldwide situation for wideband? Many rural areas in Europe are lucky if they have 512K, and I hear it's worse in many parts of the USA.<br><br>56K works with an ordinary phone line (though not usually at that speed), and I guess there is still some use for it. Not enough websites have a low speed option, though if you think of the actual value of their content, probably the majority of educationally useful web applications could work at modem speed.

    Right now I'm trying to read one of those online magazines - it's hopelessly slow with my 512K connection.
    Daddy Tadpole
    • Emerging markest should leapfrog current markets

      @Daddy Tadpole
      I think that Europe not having good WiFi should not be the yardstick. Emerging markets sometimes leapfrog the established ones. In any case, it should be WiMax 3.5 G or 4.0 G as emerging markets DO usually have cell phone networks (more so than land lines)
      Roque Mocan
  • RE: HP's me-too kid-friendly netbook

    The difference in cost to manufacture a 56k modem and a wireless card is ..oh, about 2 cents.

    HP sucks.
    Olden Atwoody
  • Why would HP send an item for "emerging" markets to a reviewer

    in a "mature" market?

    I will be happy to test it, as I live in an "emerging" market. :)

    But I agree with your observation that handhelds are used widely now, especially by kids, and it's just a configuration away from Internet access.
    raffym@...