Intel to Sell Classmate in US, Europe

Microprocessor giant Intel will sell its Intel subnotebook computer to consumers in the US and Europe for the first time, expanding its competition against the XO laptop and other newly-emerging ultra-mobile computers. Intel won't be selling its upcoming Classmate 2 portable PC directly to customers, however. Instead, it will license the design to various PC makers.

Intel's Classmate PC, like the OLPC XO laptop, was originally aimed at students in emerging markets and was sold only through governments and educational institutions. But as similarly priced and sized machines from a variety of companies have grown in popularity with mainstream consumers over the past year, Intel has followed in the footsteps of OLPC yet again and has decided to offer its own device to the public.

While the final design of the Classmate 2 has yet to be determined, it will likely cost between $250 and $350 in the US. The current generation Classmate design features a small, kid-friendly form factor, an Intel ultra-low-voltage mobile processor, a 7-inch display, and 1 or 2 GB of RAM. Intel expects its new Classmate design to come in a variety of sizes and be delivered with some version of Windows. However, despite recently announcing a new line of Atom processors that are aimed at precisely this device class, Intel says the new Classmate will still utilize its current generation chips instead. A future version, the Classmate 3, will use Atom microprocessors.

The current trend in low-cost, ultra-mobile PCs was kick-started by Asus, whose Eee PC has been a surprise hit, selling several thousand units despite being hobbled by a version of Linux, relatively poor battery life, and a small form factor. The Eee PC sells for $250 to $400, depending on the version, and Asus plans to add Windows to the device family this year. OLPC temporarily sold its XO laptop over the past holiday season in the US and Canada for $400 as part of a charity drive that provided a laptop to a child in an emerging market for each one sold. That company has had only limited success in selling its devices in emerging markets, thanks in part to competition from Intel.

As with OLPC, Intel's Classmate wasn't originally available at retail. However, the company now sells the device through retailers in India, Indonesia, and Mexico.

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