Intel to Compete with OLPC in Brazil

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Intel Corporation has announced an agreement with the government of Brazil to donate 700 to 800 of its $400 Classmate PC laptops for use in a large-scale evaluation in Brazilian schools. Intel has already conducted small scale tests of the systems in poor areaas of Campinas (near Sao Paolo), but the agreement marks the first time the company has inked an agreement with a government to test systems.

Intel’s Classmate PC is a key component of Intel’s World Ahead program aimed at development markets; it’s a lightweight, ruggedized laptop computer with a 7-inch color screen, Wi-Fi networking, and flash memory instead of a hard drive for storage.

The announcement comes just a month after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a prototype OLPC from the non-profit One Laptop Per Child project, which just had its first 1,000 units roll off the assembly line at China’s Quanta for testing. Intel’s Classmate systems are more powerful than the OLPC system—sporting more memory and storage, as well as a faster processor—but will have a per-unit cost in the $400 range, as opposed to roughly $150 for the OLPC. The costs for both systems will likely decline if orders (and, hence, manufacturing capacity) increase. Intel’s Classmate PC systems can run either Windows or Linux; OLPC systems run Linux.

In a way, competition from Intel is a validation of the One Laptop Per Child project. The OLPC project was launched, in part, to awaken the technology industry to the fact it had, collectively, been ignoring a vast portion of the world’s population and helping create and sustain a technological and cultural elite. Intel’s interest in offering inexpensive computing and information technology resources to developing nations underscores the validity of the OLPC project…even if, so far, Intel isn’t willing to undercut its prices.


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