Intel: No plans to sell Classmate PC in Philippines

Low-cost portable PC won't be commercially available but negotiations are ongoing with PC makers keen to produce similar devices, say Intel execs.

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.

PHILIPPINES--Intel has no plans to sell Intel-branded low-cost portable PCs in the Philippines despite the arrival of the Classmate PC, which the chip giant had said it would donate to, or make available for sale to schools and governments in, developing countries.

According to company officials, Intel will instead stay focused on its core competence of mass-producing processors and has no plans to delve into laptop production.

Reported to cost less than US$400, the Intel Classmate PC made its first appearance in the Philippines earlier this month, after Intel announced it donated 100 units of the low-cost computer to a public school in the country. The initiative is part of the company's global education program.

According to Intel executives in the Philippines, the cost of building a Classmate PC is currently US$285, dropping to about US$200 as volume grows.

John Antone, Intel's Asia-Pacific vice president for sales and marketing and general manager, told ZDNet Asia that the company currently does not have any plans to make Classmate PC commercially available to the general market in the Philippines. Schools and government agencies in the country can buy the system directly from the chipmaker.

Antone disclosed that the PC was manufactured by a third-party OEM (original equipment manufacturer), and hinted that a foreign company--likely a Taiwanese manufacturer--assembled the device for Intel.

However, he added that there are interested PC makers who are currently "negotiating" with Intel on the possibility of manufacturing devices patterned after the specifications and price points of the Classmate PC.

Earlier this month, Intel and Taiwanese company Asustek unveiled a joint effort to develop and mass produce low-cost laptops priced between US$200 and US$400.

Making it cheap
The cost of a Classmate PC is significantly lower because of the components that are integrated in the device. Measuring a tad smaller than a regular notebook, the low-cost PC is powered by an Intel chip and comes installed with a Windows operating system. The device is lightweight partly because the hard disk has been replaced by flash memory, which also significantly reduces battery consumption, Intel said.

Despite its basic features and considerably less computing power than most laptops, the Classmate PC can last for years, Antone said. Rather, the limitation on its useful life span depends on how quickly users outgrow the PC's usefulness, he said.

Ricky Banaag, country manager of Intel Microelectronics Philippines, said the chipmaker will "continue donating inexpensive PCs" to the Philippine government.

Banaag was unable to provide details on how many more of the inexpensive PCs Intel plans to donate or which schools will be the next batch of recipients.

According to the Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd), the country is in dire need of computers for its 14,000 public schools, most of which have yet to introduce basic computer education in their curriculum.

A sub-US$200 or US$300 price tag for a portable PC is an attractive price point since most low-end laptops in the country are currently priced between 25,000 peso (US$542.50) to 30,000 peso (US$651). Branded laptops are more expensive.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

Clarification: Intel's Philippine office wishes to clarify that while the Classmate PC is not commercially available for sale to the general market, it is sold to schools and government agencies in the country. Intel adds that details on the cost of building the Classmate PC are now available. According to the Philippine office, the system currently costs US$285 to build, dropping to about US$200 as volume grows. The story has been updated.