IDF Spring 2008 – Intel Details Second-Gen Classmate PC

OLPC rival gets a makeover

Today saw the official unveiling of Intel’s new education-focussed sub-notebook, the Classmate PC (CPC). Building on the apparent successes of the previous model – Intel claims sales are now at around 100,000 a quarter – the new version tweaks the specs and form factor of the original and adds a few new extras like a webcam and larger screen.

The basic underlying technology is largely unchanged with a 900MHz ultra-low voltage Celeron M processor and 915GMS chipset powering things along – though we were assured Atom based versions will be available when that platform officially launches. Memory has been doubled to 512MB and there are more storage options, with 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB flash drives and up to 30GB hard drives available.

The screen size has also been increased from 7inches to a more eyesight-friendly 9inches – the resolution remains at 800×480 pixels, though. Above the screen, a 0.3megapixel web-cam option has also been added, which was a move apparently in response to requests from children for a more “collaborative and interactive learning experience” – do kids even know what those words mean?

Networking capabilities have also seen improvements with 802.11s ad-hoc mesh support now added. This enables the creation of CPC-to-CPC wireless networks without the need for a wireless access point in every class room. It also means children can take their Classmate PCs with them anywhere – e.g. field trips – and still benefit from networked collaborative learning software and the like.

In terms of form factor and looks, the new CPC remains largely unchanged from its previous iteration – that is to say, it’s still big and chunky, has a protective leather jacket with integrated handle, and weighs around 1KG. However, there are a few cosmetic tweaks like the touchpad, which is no longer circular, and the protective protruding plastic edges have also disappeared. Also, in response to user requests, the battery is now hidden behind an easily removable cover, rather than the old version that required the CPC to be dismantled to replace, and battery packs now come in 4- and 6-cell flavours.

Of course, Intel only sets out a basic specification and it’s up to OEMs to tweak the design as they see fit. So, expect to see all manner of variations being wheeled out around the world.

Prices are tipped to start at around £300 for the most basic models but expect most versions to be more like £350. No definite date was set for availability as, again, this is down to OEMs, but Q2 to Q3 is the ballpark figure. The new models will also be available at launch in developed countries as well as developing countries, though – for the last time – this is again dependent on local OEM cooperation.

So , what do you think? Do you like the idea of our your children using these at schools?

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