I had a great talk with Intel's Jeff Galinovsky today about the updated Convertible Classmate they previewed at CeBIT. While I covered many of the technical details already based on their press release and promotional materials, he was able to give me some additional details about their growing ecosystem and new content for the updated Classmate.
I don't have a test unit in hand yet, but I've assembled a gallery based on Intel's press information. Hopefully a hands-on review will be forthcoming. For now, click here to see images of the new Classmate.
And for those of you who would rather see it in action, here's a video showcasing some of the highlights of the new reference design:
A few highlights of our discussion weren't covered in the video above. In particular, Intel expects the new Classmate to be available from OEMs by early- to mid- Q2 of 2010. The 9" models, however, will be discontinued by the middle of this year owing to discontinued parts from ODMs and suppliers. Although the features are considerably expanded from previous generations, Intel's goal was to keep prices similar and prices should only increase by $10-20 for a base model. Of course, the newly available options (high-resolution screen, 250GB hard drive, GPS, 3G wireless, and Windows 7 Professional) will drive prices closer to full laptops.
A few of those options, however, will probably be worth the increased cost. It might be hard to justify a GPS on every Classmate in a large 1:1 deployment, but upgrading from the standard Windows 7 Starter Edition to Windows 7 Professional would allow far better management, including domain join capabilities (Metasys Linux, Ubuntu, and Moblin 2.0 have all been validated with the device as well, but the advent of Windows 7 and its inherent touch capabilities and low system footprint makes it an attractive option). Similarly, the higher resolution screen (1366×768) will be required for most e-learning content.
What exactly is e-learning in Intel-speak? We'll see if the content actually materializes, but it certainly looks to be the realization of what e-readers should be able to do in education. As Jeff noted with a chuckle, in tablet form, the Classmate offers "iPad-style e-reading, except the Classmate can multitask." For example, color diagrams in text, video, animations, etc., can all live within interactive textbooks. Add to that easy note-taking and annotations enabled with the touch interface and specialized software as well as built-in web access and you have a pretty compelling platform. Like Apple, Intel has also partnered with McGraw-Hill, among others, to develop e-learning content, although none has specifically been announced.
If the content comes together as expected, Classmate PC could represent a turnkey solution allowing schools to purchase technology and e-learning content and, in many cases, leave textbooks behind in a full 1:1 deployment. Expect content announcements later in Q2. One of Intel's key messages, however, is that the Classmate is focused on content creation, rather than content consumption like traditional e-readers.