Intel launches next-generation Classmate PC

The chipmaker claims the research-led upgrade to its low-cost educational laptop is sensitive to local needs but has worldwide potential
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Intel has launched its second-generation Classmate PC at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai.

The new notebook, launched on Thursday, shares its basic hardware design with the first generation Classmate as well as a focus on the developing-world education markets. However, Intel said it was responding to interest elsewhere: "We will be expanding into the mature markets, including Europe and the US," said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of Intel's emerging market platform's group.

Upgrades to the Classmate PC platform include a 9-inch LCD, integrated camera and a user-replaceable battery. This can be four- or six-cell, giving three or five hours' operation. The upgraded system can also have an optional 30GB hard disk instead of 1GB, 2GB or 4GB flash drives, and the 802.11b/g wireless networking now has a mesh mode to connect Classmates where there's no wireless infrastructure. The processor, as before, is a 900MHz Celeron-M.

"We did around 30 countries' worth of pilots in over 70 schools, to see what 's working and what's not, and integrated our findings with the design," said Ibrahim. "They want more collaboration, so we included the camera and mesh networking. All of this represents Intel's commitment to education. We worked with our fellow travellers around the globe, talked to teachers, educators and students, and reiterated the design to meet the need of students worldwide"

The new design is based around Intel's Netbook concept of $250-$350 wireless laptops, added Ibrahim, with the company being commited to further developments. "A version with the Atom will be delivered in a time-to-market fashion," she said, referring to Intel's recently launched ultra-low-power x86 platform.

Ibrahim declined to say which of Intel's partners would be launching the Classmate PC in Europe or when this would happen, but said that plans were in an advanced stage. Worldwide, the Classmate PC has been selling in the prder of tens of thousands of units a month, the company revealed, with movement towards the hundreds of thousands range, but future sales would depend on more than just the availability of the hardware.

"This is a completely new market, and we can't just throw technology into it. You need local content providers to produce content for it that's relevant. We spent so much time on the pilots and testing, to understand what needs to develop in the local economy to make it happen. That makes it hard to predict numbers," Ibrahim said.

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