CES '09: Intel Shows Next Generation of Netbooks

Intel showcased its third generation of Classmate PC netbooks at CES '09 this week. Built by local manufacturers, the netbooks appeal to elementary students and emerging markets.

Parents looking to pick up a durable, functional netbook for their student might want to keep an eye on this one. The new convertible Classmate PC netbook features a flexible, 180-degree swivel design, and converts instantly from a clamshell to a tablet mode with touch screen capabilities. Intel says that both the new convertible and existing clamshell versions of the Classmate series are based on ethnographic studies and feedback from pilot programs conducted in both mature and emerging markets.

"Education is one of the best ways to improve the future for individuals, villages, or nations," said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of the Intel Emerging Markets Platform Group, which supports the Intel Learning Series and developed the classmate PC reference design based on ethnographic research. "There are 1.3 billion school-age children around the world and of those only 5 percent have access to a PC or the Internet. The IT industry has a huge opportunity to contribute to how technology can improve students' learning and students' lives. With our announcement today, Intel continues its long-standing commitment to advancing education through technology to transform lives around the world."

Built with students in mind, the Classmate netbook, with its low-power Intel Atom processor, is small and light enough for a child to easily carry. The design integrates a water-resistant keyboard and is rugged enough to withstand bumping in a backpack and accidental drops. The tablet mode offers "palm rejection," allowing the child to write more naturally by resting their palm on the touch screen (sounds handy for lefties too). The new Classmate also features education-oriented software and applications from companies enlisted in Intel's Learning Series program.

According to Intel, local manufacturers such as CTL, Equus and M&A in the United States, MDG in Canada, CMS in the United Kingdom, NEC in France, Olidata in Chile, ASI in Australia and Hanvon in China will also be offering the convertible Classmate PC netbook in their countries. The new convertible version complements the existing clamshell design currently offered in countries worldwide.

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett focused on the need to provide educational content to every child in his keynote address this week at CES '09. "Technology can be used in tremendous ways to impact people's lives on the ground," he said. Poor nations will be able to deliver health services and vital education through better connectivity offered by 3G, 4G and WiMax, he said.

Intel did not include release dates for the new Classmate convertible model, so stay tuned.

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