Saturday, May 06, 2006

Intel unveils Cheap Laptops to span global 'digital divide'

The head of the world's largest chipmaker has unveiled a mobile personal computer designed to provide affordable collaborative learning environments for teachers and students around the world.

Paul Otellini, Intel Corp.'s chief executive, said the $400 machines -- code-named "Eduwise" -- will feature built-in wireless and will be able to run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or the Linux operating system.

Many high-tech companies, including Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Microsoft, have announced similar initiatives in an effort to close the "digital divide" between developed and developing nations.

"What we want to do is accelerate to uncompromised technology for everyone in the world," Otellini said during a demonstration at the World Congress on Information Technology in Austin.

"No one wants to cross the digital divide with yesterday's technology."

The flip-open Eduwise computer, which includes a handle and light blue accents, snaps shut like a purse. Special software lets students in a classroom view presentations, take tests and interact individually with their teachers using a built-in wireless connection.

The cheaper PCs are part of a $1-billion investment by Intel over the next five years to promote the use of computers in schools, cafes and other public spots in developing countries, Otellini said.

The Eduwise machine was designed by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, but will be built by its computer-making customers.

Otellini said the devices should be available next year.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte's nonprofit One Laptop Per Child association hopes to begin providing $100 laptops to millions of children in China, India, Egypt, Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria and Argentina by early 2007.

Tentative designs call for a machine that uses one-10th of the power of conventional laptops, a seven-inch screen and the Linux operating system. The project's partners include Google Inc. and AMD.

In an earlier speech at the conference, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the benefits of the global spread of technology are only starting to be felt.

"What we see going forward over the next five, 10, 15 years is a world of technology that has the potential itself to be even more important than the positive change it has enabled within society in the past 10 years," he said.

"Computers will see, computers will listen, computers will understand. Computers will help the world grow smaller and help people to collaborate in new ways."

On Wednesday, Otellini said Intel had reached a deal with the Mexican government to provide new, low-cost PCs to 300,000 teachers by year's end.

"The federal government of Mexico has made great progress in bringing


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