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The Classmate PC – Intel’s Education Initiative

Intel have come up with an scheme similar to the OLPC – the Intel-based Classmate PC. It is part of the Intel Education Initiative. The Intel Classmate is essentially a rugged, child-friendly laptop designed for education, like the One Laptop Per Child foundation – both commendable aspirations.

But there the similarities end…

Unlike the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, the Classmate PC is a commercial product, like any other product Intel produce. It is only available for those who can afford it. It is making technology accessible to those developing countries and children, but not practical.

It is on sale on Amazon, and undercuts the XO laptops ‘Give One, Get One’ scheme. Remember though, if buying a Classmate laptop you are only buying one – and an inferior product at that. The Acer Aspire One is cheaper if you’re looking for a mini laptop, and has higher specs. With similar money, the OLPC will ship two XO laptops, one to you and one to someone where it can help transform lives through education.

That said, what Intel have done is part of the solution to education. Intel have said that they are aiming at ‘middle-stage developing countries’ where some technology already exists and the Classmate is simply an extension to that.

The ‘Intel Education Initiative’ is a program designed to help produce the next generation of innovators, who are going to take technology forward. Intel spend a whopping $100 million US dollars on teacher training, student learning and in universities throughout the world in areas of mathematics, science and technology.

The education initiative is all part of the ‘Intel World Ahead Program’ which focuses on making technology accessible, connecting people through wireless technologies, quality education and the creation of localized content and services as more people become connected to each other.

The first, very similar to the XO laptop in size and weight, 7 inch 800×480 color LCD screen and powered by the Intel Celeron M 900MHz processor – much like the first Asus Eee PC. It is 245×196×44 mm and weighs up to 1.45kg.

The second generation version is slightly smaller and lighter, and features the powerful new Intel Atom microprocessor and is available with an 8.9″ 1024 × 600 color LCD screen. It also has improved battery life, an optional camera and a mesh network.

They both are available with XP Professional or Linux, feature 10/100M Ethernet and 802.11b/g WLAN, integrated 2 channel audio, microphone and speaker as well as 2 USB ports and one SD slot.

For those who need a rugged laptop, the Classmate is a very feasible option. It is designed to take more of a battering than other laptops and netbooks, like the XO. The XO however doesn’t have a Microsoft XP version available which can help with commonality across a whole network of computers. For these reasons the organizers of ‘Racing The Planet’ use the Classmate for the competitors, medical teams, press and the likes for communication and computing. ‘Racing The Planet’ is an endurance competition that challenges competitors to traverse some of the most difficult terrain on earth, from Antartica to the Sahara.

“We travel light and fast during the races, and we simply cannot use gear that doesn’t work,” says Mary Gadams, CEO of Racing the Planet. “At this point in time, there is no better device out there that satisfies Racing The Planet’s requirements.”