BETT 2019: Portugal’s JP.IK is keeping the Classmate PC idea alive

Intel’s Classmate PC not only led to a boom in netbooks, it prompted a whole new business for JP.IK, turning a small Portuguese computer company into a global technology provider working in more than 70 countries

Slide T301 2-in-1 for kids

The Slide T301 is JP.IK's new 2-in-1 Windows 10 machine for kids. It works with an active pen and even has a built-in carrying handle. Photo: JP.IK

Intel's Classmate PC reference design has a proud history in the educational computing market, and led directly to the netbook, which was popular with consumers from 2007 to 2012. The netbook boom was kicked off by sales of the Asus Eee PC, which originally had a 7-inch screen, before Acer, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and others piled in.

Happily, the Classmate idea didn't die with the netbook – or even with the OLPC – and at BETT 2019, a Portuguese company called JP.IK was fulfilling the original idea: to provide cheap computers for educational use, especially in developing countries.

JP.IK's Sandra Jesus told me it has run more than 20 large-scale projects in countries such as Kenya, Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia, some of them involving up to 700,000 PCs or tablets.

The company has also developed a small, modular PopUp School building that uses renewable energy and can be installed in five days. JP.IK promoted this idea at the at Innovation Africa 2018 forum in Zimbabwe in November. It also has PopUps in some other African countries.

JP.IK got its break in 2008 when the Portuguese government, in conjunction with Intel, launched the Magellan Initiative (Iniciativa Magalhães). The aim was to deliver 500,000 semi-rugged Classmate PCs to schoolchildren aged 6-10. Intel picked a small Portuguese PC supplier, JP Sá Couto SA, to be its local manufacturing partner. As a result, in Intel's words, it "grew from its roots as a small local reseller to become a global technology provider."

The success of the Magellan Initiative has been questioned – among other things, it seems many teachers were not trained properly – and it was suspended in 2011. However, it led to a new business for JP Sá Couto, under a new name: JP.IK (for Inspiring Knowledge).

At BETT, JP.IK showed two new machines alongside its Classmate PCs. The Trigono V410 is a 13.3-inch touch-screen convertible laptop with a 360-degree hinge, a pen, and either an Intel Celeron N4000 or a Pentium Silver N5000 processor. It looks smart and is aimed at older students and teachers.

The Slide T301 is an 11.6-inch Celeron N4100-powered drop/dust/liquid-resistant (MIL-STD-810G) 2-in-1 with a detachable keyboard and an optional active pen. It's designed for classroom use, and comes preloaded with educational software. Its more unusual feature is a built-in carrying handle.

Both machines have 1920 x 1080 screens, fingerprint sensors, SD card slots, 4GB of memory, 64GB of eMMC storage and Microsoft Windows 10 Pro.

Drive B202

The Drive B202 is a Ubuntu-powered hotspot for classroom use when the internet is not available

Photo: JP.IK

Many of these laptops will be used where there is little or no internet connectivity. JP.IK's solution is the Drive B202, which creates a local hotspot. It looks like a flat, white router, but it's actually a very small Ubuntu PC with an Intel Atom E3826 processor.

Teaching materials can be loaded on the Drive B202's 500GB hard drive, alongside the pre-installed classroom and content management software (a message hub, calendar, attendance register etc). It has a five-hour battery to cope with power failures, which also means the device can easily be moved from classroom to classroom, or used outside.

As JP.IK says, "you can take your classroom anywhere."