Cheap Intel PCs en route to Europe
Intel is to make its low-cost Classmate laptops -- which were primarily designed for use in the developing world -- available to consumers in the US and Europe.
The chipmaker said on Wednesday that a new version of the sub-USD300 notebook will be available in a few weeks time, with notebooks based on the design expected to be launched by manufacturers later this year.
Such a move is likely to mean that the general cost of notebooks, which has fallen substantially over the last few years, will fall even further.
Based on an x86 compatible Intel processor and capable of running Linux or Windows, the Classmate PC was initially designed for use by children in developing countries. However, according to recent estimates, the notebook has proven less than popular, with fewer than 100,000 Classmate PCs sold since launch.
While the introduction of Classmate-designed notebooks into the US and Europe will boost sales, Intel will be competing with a number of rivals in the low-cost laptop market.
The non-profit One Laptop Per Child Foundation, whose XO laptop was also initially designed for use by children in the developing world, costs just USD188. While it isn't generally available to consumers in the US or Europe, the XO was made available to buy for a limited period in North America last year through a "Give 1 Get 1" (G1G1) program which enabled individuals to buy two notebooks for USD399, with one sent to a child in a developing nation.
In addition, Mary Lou Jepsen, who helped develop the XO Laptop before establishing Pixel QI, is aiming to launch a USD75 notebook by 2010 while the Eee Pc, a USD399 notebook which was designed by Asustek and Intel, is proving popular in a number of markets with over 300,000 units shifted last year alone.
While the widespread availability of ultra low-cost laptops will be welcomed by the educational establishment in particular, it may not come soon enough in Ireland, which has one of the lowest rates of ICT usage in education in the developed world.
According to a report commissioned on behalf of Minister for Education Mary Hanafin, the government's EUR252 million plan to boost the use of technology in schools is less than satisfactory.
A draft copy of the report, which was leaked to The Irish Times this week, warns that the plan doesn't offer enough to enable Irish schools to close the gap on neighbouring countries.