A First Look at the Intel PlayMate Laptop

The chips are down -way down- at Intel Corp. these days.
You’ve probably already read about the company’s 90% drop in quarterly profits. As the economy slows, and people buy fewer laptops, call phones, and televisions, the chip domino is one of the first to fall here in the Silicon Valley.
So Intel’s Emerging Markets division stepped out of the cleanroom, and into the classroom.  It’s using sociologists to help design a new line of netbooks.  Intel calls the line the “ClassMate” — and we just got a hands-on demo from Lila Ibrahim, Intel’s Emerging Markets GM.  ClassMate is the kind of little machine that, if it was around when I was a kid, I probably wouldn’t be writing about the tech industry, but writing code for it.
The ClassMate features all sorts of little things that make sense, especially for kids.  They’re sturdy. Portable.  The screen moves around so anyone can see what you’re doing.  Even the on-screen camera can be swiveled, so you can take pictures easily.  You can type on it, or press (as hard as any kid could want) with a stylus. 
And, just as important (because, yes, they had computers when I was a kid, we just couldn’t afford one), ClassMates are cheap.  Netbook cheap.  They start at around $350, and are able to take advantage of the fact that, even in slow economic times, governments are willing to spend money to put technology into schools.  These laptops, then, become an international opportunity for Intel, whose chips are found in all ten versions of the machine
As Lila says, “Kids want to take it with them.”  A good way, therefore, to lure a new generation of techies, who will someday be able to afford laptops (with chips inside) of their own.


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