Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
3/29/2006
11:58 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
50%
50%

It Takes An Indian Village To Buy An Intel Laptop

Intel Corp. has dropped the other shoe in its defense of its laptop processor business against whatever threat Nicholas Negroponte's One-Laptop-Per-Child project poses. In December Intel Chairman Craig Barrett bad-mouthed the $100 laptop Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, plans to distribute in Third World countries, and earlier this month Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the other half of the "Wintel" combine, did the same thing. Even though he dismissed Negroponte's design as "the $100 g

Intel Corp. has dropped the other shoe in its defense of its laptop processor business against whatever threat Nicholas Negroponte's One-Laptop-Per-Child project poses.

In December Intel Chairman Craig Barrett bad-mouthed the $100 laptop Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, plans to distribute in Third World countries, and earlier this month Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the other half of the "Wintel" combine, did the same thing.

Even though he dismissed Negroponte's design as "the $100 gadget," Barrett apparently wasn't against the idea of a laptop specifically engineered for the challenges of the developing world. He was just against one that didn't use an Intel processor.

This week Intel Corp. launched a "community PC platform" designed to meet the needs of rural communities in India. The "Jagruti" (awakening) initiative, says Intel, will help accelerate access to the benefits of information and communications technologies in villages across India by fostering the spread of rural Internet kiosks based on this new Intel-powered Community PC.The Community PC press release mentions many of the same design criteria as the One Laptop Per Child site: A ruggedized chassis designed to withstand dusty conditions, varying temperatures and high humidity, power consumption below 100 watts. It is curiously silent about others. What processor will the Community PC run? Not specified. What operating system? Not specified?

My guess is the Intel PR guys are a little embarrassed to admit that the processor will have to be down in the "gadget" class to meet the constraints of the system design.

And of course it will be a Microsoft OS . . . won't it? Maybe Windows Vista Starter? Or are the demands even that supposedly stripped-down OS makes too much for the 100-watt limit? As the OLPC site rather drily notes, "Today's laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways." (The OLPC's $100 laptop is announced to run Linux on an AMD processor.)

To be fair, Intel recognizes the problems. The press release quotes William M. Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel's Channel Platforms Group: "Our experience shows that . . . adoption in developing nations requires much more than providing a standard PC; the technology often needs to be adapted to the local usage and environment of a particular country or region. In addition to defining the platform and developing the ingredient technologies, Intel also collaborated with local hardware, software and service companies to deliver on the promise of the Community PC platform."

Intel seems to have given some thought to the details of fitting its program into the local economy, at least, something OLPC, in all its idealism, hasn't addressed much.

But Intel is in this, after all, to make a profit. Its press release may not talk about the OS, but it does say how Intel will get paid: "The platform comes installed with a certificate-based access, allowing banks to verify the validity of installment payments against the purchase of the PCs."

I'm glad they cleared that up. No mention of how many rupees it will take to pay off a Community PC, but at least we know it's not charity.

Note to Commuity PC designers: Remember, guys, India uses 240-volt-50-cycle AC -- where you can find it.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
Just because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.