Venezuela has signed an agreement with Portugal that will allow the South American country to buy 1 million low-cost Intel Classmate PC notebooks from a Portuguese manufacturer.
The agreement between Intel and the governments of Venezuela and Portugal now represents the largest deployment of Classmate PCs since Intel first introduced its low-cost notebook design, Agnes Kwan, a spokeswoman for the company, said Sept. 29. In July, Portugal announced that it will buy 500,000 Classmate PCs. JP S??Â¡ Couto, a local Portuguese company, received the license to design and manufacture these notebooks for schoolchildren.
Under the agreement, the Portuguese OEM will manufacture its version of the Classmate, which is called the Magellan PC, for the Venezuelan government. While some of the manufacturing will take place in Portugal, Kwan said it is possible that parts of the notebooks will eventually be assembled in Venezuela, although specific details are still being discussed by both governments.
One noteworthy difference between the notebooks in Portugal and Venezuela is the operating system. While the Portuguese laptops use a modified version of Microsoft Windows, the government of Venezuela decided to use a version of Linux developed in that country, said Kwan.
Since the Classmate is more of a design than an actual product, it provides a way to supply low-cost PCs to schoolchildren and also gives local manufacturers, as well as Intel, a way to make a profit.
Intel has been pushing its Classmate PC design aggressively since the beginning of 2008, when the company publicly broke with the One Laptop Per Child project. After Intel and the OLPC project had their falling out, Intel forged ahead with its Classmate PC initiative. The original designs were based on Celeron processors, but Intel is planning to launch a new version based on its low-cost Atom processor later this year.
The laptops that Venezuela will buy will be based on the Atom chip, according to Intel.
In addition to its Classmate PC design, Intel is selling its Atom processor to major OEMs for use in low-cost notebook that the company calls “netbooks.” The most recognized of these inexpensive laptops is the Asus Eee PC, but other vendors have rolled out their own versions, including Dell and Lenovo.
The split with the OLPC seems to have favored Intel so far. The deals with Portugal and Venezuela will total 1.5 million Classmates in circulation; the OLPC has shipped about 700,000 XO laptops, according to a spokeswoman for the nonprofit project. (Intel also has other deals for Classmate PCs in other countries, while the OLPC plans to sell more XO notebooks through Amazon.)
The first of the Classmate PCs for Venezuela should ship by the end of 2008, with the bulk of the notebooks shipping by the first half of 2009, Kwan said. The laptops are part of a $3 billion trade agreement between Portugal and Venezuela, which the two governments officially signed this week, according to a report in the Associated Press.