The $400 laptop
Intel to Offer Its Own Plan for Global Internet Access
By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: May 2, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, May 1 — Aiming to help close the so-called digital divide, the Intel Corporation plans to announce a design for a sub-$400 educational laptop and a five-year, $1 billion program to train teachers and to extend wireless digital Internet access worldwide.
The moves are intended to bolster Intel's reach into new markets, but may also have an effect on the American market for computers in education.
The program is to be announced on Tuesday at the World Congress on Information Technology, a conference in Austin, Tex., where Intel's chief executive, Paul S. Otellini, will elaborate on it in a speech on Wednesday.
The initiative, called World Ahead, comes as Intel, the No. 1 chip maker, is embarking on what it says will be a $1 billion revamping program in the face of declining market share and a lagging share price. It will roughly double what Intel is spending annually on training and technology support in places lagging in digital development, Mr. Otellini said in a telephone interview on Monday.
The company plans to support the computer training of 10 million teachers around the world. It has already financed the training of three million, he said.
He distinguished Intel's efforts from other campaigns with similar aims by saying Intel would focus on full-featured computer systems with enough power and memory to run Microsoft software.
Intel's rival chip maker, Advanced Micro Devices, has backed the concept of reaching half of the world's population with inexpensive personal computers by 2015, and Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been designing a sub-$100 notebook computer for educational use in developing nations.
Those machines have either been designed to run open-source software or a subset of the complete version of Microsoft's standard desktop software.
The issue has been a highly charged one, both for political and business reasons.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Mr. Negroponte publicly debated the issue with Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, and his chief technology officer, Craig J. Mundie, who suggested that a better alternative to an ultralow-cost computer might be a combination phone and personal organizer that can be fitted with an inexpensive display and a keyboard.
On Monday, Mr. Otellini appeared to be making a point of defending the utility of the Intel-Microsoft desktop standard.
"We don't think you cross the digital divide with old technology," he said. "It doesn't need exotic technology and it runs real applications."
The new Intel design, to be called Eduwise, will include software for the classroom. Makers of the computer are to be named later.
Mr. Otellini dismissed the possibility that the emergence of such low-cost computers might cannibalize existing markets, saying that low-end portable computers were already close to these prices in the United States.
Mr. Negroponte, whose machine will have a handle, a hand crank and an innovative display screen, is in discussions with Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand and South Africa to purchase millions of the notebooks.
And those discussions will remain just that.
Software. Most donated software is Windows. If they can't use it, the machines have limited utility in areas without phone lines or even reliable electricity.
Intel's machine may cost moremoney, but if it can run Word, people will want it because they have the donated software around.
posted by Steve @ 1:46:00 AM