Portugal to sell 500,000 of Intel’s Classmate PCs

Intel Corp.’s low-cost laptop initiative is set to get a boost Wednesday from Portugal’s government, which is pledging to provide elementary school students with 500,000 computers based on the chipmaker’s Classmate PC design.

The announcement brings Intel’s rivalry with the One Laptop Per Child organization into the spotlight once again

In May, the nonprofit OLPC group said its green-and-white XO laptop computers would work with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows in addition to a homegrown Linux-based operating system.

The move was seen as a way to make the so-called “$100 laptop,” which actually costs about $188, more palatable to education ministers in developing countries who might have balked at an open-source system.

But in a single deal for half a million PCs, Intel nearly matched OLPC’s total orders to date — 600,000 units as of May — calling into question whether OLPC’s adoption of Windows has made much difference.

Representatives for Cambridge, Mass.-based One Laptop Per Child did not immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment and an updated order total.

As part of its biggest deal for the Classmate PC to date, Intel said it will serve as technology adviser to Portugal’s Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communications, which is coordinating the laptop program.

Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan said parents of young school children will be able to choose between computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system and ones with an open-source Linux operating system, and that the government will distribute the machines to Portugal’s elementary school students over the course of the 2008-2009 school year.

As of the middle of this year, “hundreds of thousands” of the Classmate PCs had already shipped to customers in more than 30 countries, according to Kwan.

The spokeswoman declined to disclose how much the laptops will cost parents or other financial terms of the deal. She said Portugal’s Ministry of Education is working out pricing details.

Classmate PCs are based on Intel’s design and include its processors, but they are built by other manufacturers and sold under a variety of brand names. The first generation went on sale in March 2007; a heftier version with a faster processor and a bigger screen hit the market in April 2008.

Intel’s Classmate PC and OLPC’s XO are just two of a growing field of small, low-cost computers aimed at the millions of students in developing countries who are just gaining access to technology and the Internet.

The relationship between Intel and OLPC, whose XO machine uses microprocessors made by Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc., has been notoriously rocky. The two declared a truce last summer, but earlier this year relations turned frosty again when Intel abruptly pulled out from OLPC’s board of directors.


Via Yahoo

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