Intel Sets Out to Discover New Worlds for the PC

The chip maker's Discover the PC project will help build low-price hardware for emerging markets.

Intel says it wants to put PCs into the hands of more people around the world.

The chip maker on March 31 unveiled an initiative it says it is undertaking to help deliver PCs to people in developing nations, who might not be able to afford the types of desktops and notebooks that are popular today in markets such as the United States.

The initiative, dubbed Discover the PC, will emphasizes things like cost, size and power efficiency, yet still deliver PCs capable of running familiar applications and accessing the Internet, Intel said in a statement.

Thus, the company says it is working with local governments and telecommunications companies to help distribute the machines, each of which is likely to vary in price as well as how it is used, country-to-country.

One such machine, dubbed a Community PC, is designed to be centrally located and thus used by numerous people in rural India. Another created for countries such as Mexico will be more of a stand-alone machine, Intel indicated.

Word of the Intel initiative comes a few days before Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratorys Chairman Emeritus Nicholas Negroponte, leader of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative—often referred to as the $100 laptop project—is expected to give an update on the project during a keynote at LinuxWorld.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about Negropontes vision for OLPC, click here.

The first machines created by OLPC—which itself has been backed by several major technology companies including Advanced Micro Devices, Red Hat Software and PC manufacturer Quanta Computer—are expected to arrive later this year.

Intel gave few details, such as the exact type of hardware and operating systems its Discover the PC initiative would tap or which manufacturers will build the machines.

But it said the platforms will be fully featured with an emphasis on ease of use, in addition to low price, meaning they may well compete with OLPCs efforts.

Intel and others are interested in creating PCs for emerging markets that are expected to help drive much of the future growth of PC shipments, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. in Wayland, Mass.

"A lot of companies have looked at this problem ... and tried to figure out the right way to go into a local village," he said.

"Its not an easy problem to solve," Kay said. "But these are very big markets." Successful project could "give Intel a footprint in the developing world, where all the future growth is supposed to come from."

Initially, Intel plans to help make low-cost desktop PCs available through government agencies and telecommunications companies in Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria. It will expand the program to other countries later this year, the company said in a statement.

Intel is also developing a prototype small-form-factor laptop PC that will offer software and hardware features for the education market, the company said.

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