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The Kno is dead...long live Kno (thanks to $30 million from Intel, et al)

Remember the Kno? Last September, I called the 14.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Remember the Kno? Last September, I called the 14.1″ tablet "either...the Ed Tech holy grail or just one more failed ebook...in a world that still likes killing trees." Well, guess what? From a hardware perspective, it isn't going to be either. From a software perspective, however, it looks like Intel, among several major investors, has ensured that the really innovative technologies that Kno developed will live on in a variety of devices.

The news of a significant investment and associated shift in product development came from Kno in an email on Monday:

We have some exciting news to share. Intel Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Advanced Publishing have made a $30 million investment in Kno.

As part of the deal, we are working with Intel to accelerate the design of education tablet computers for students around the globe. This partnership allows us to focus on creating the world's leading education software for different devices and platforms. It also means that we will no longer be manufacturing and distributing the Kno tablet.

And I was just getting excited about seeing the Kno tablet in production.

A little further thought, though, left me a bit more enthusiastic. The Kno software for the presentation of e-learning tools and the company's partnerships with content providers like Wiley and Pearson were actually far more compelling in the first place than their hardware prototypes. They weren't exactly ultra-portable in an age of MacBook Airs and razor-thin smartphones. And when many users and analysts claim that even an iPad is just a bit too big and heavy for extended use, the Kno hardware may have been doomed anyway.

Intel, whose investment arm contributed 2/3 of the $30 million in this round of funding for Kno, just happens to have a whole lot of expertise layering stacks of educational software on to hardware reference designs and building OEM partnerships that make for very competitive pricing. According to a joint press release,

As part of the agreement, Intel and Kno will join forces to advance the use of tablet computers designed to meet the needs of interactive and 1:1 student learning environments. The two companies will explore opportunities to make Kno’s touch-based applications available for Intel’s educational platforms.

“Kno’s unique end-to-end software and their experience with content publishers aligns very well with Intel’s approach of delivering a holistic solution for education that comprises of hardware, software, digital content and services,” said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president. “We plan to work with Kno and continue to bring a wide range of innovative platform choices to students worldwide.”

This does kind of scream Classmate PC, doesn't it? An Intel spokesperson, however, when asked about possible rollouts of Know software on the Classmate had only this to say:

[Intel's] Education Market Platform Group (EMPG) is in the process of evaluating Kno’s platform and services to explore areas of collaboration.

As touch screen technology becomes cheaper and students become more adept at interacting with and creating content via touch interfaces, the Kno software on an evolving Classmate PC platform, as well as on Atom-driven tablet hardware sounds like a pretty fine investment. In fact, it sounds like a more affordable, more widely distributed solution than Kno could have ever provided on its own.

The Kno Tablet to which we were all looking forward (the prototype in the vide below) may never come to fruition, but Intel's investment ensures that we certainly haven't seen the last of Kno.

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