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AMD to revive information appliance concept

'Emma' to herald cheap net access for developing world?

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AMD's 'Emma' - a low-cost information appliance designed for the developing world - looks set to be formally unveiled next week, according to a variety of reports on the web.

Actually, 'Emma' may be the Geode-based, x86-compatible SoC that the appliance is based upon. The device itself is a highly compact unit - along the lines of Xybernaut's wearable CPUs, by all accounts - that hooks up to separate screen, mouse and keyboard.

AMD CEO Hector Ruiz has been pursuing the product for some time, partly with the philanthropic motive of increasing Internet use in the developing world, but also to boost opportunities for AMD processor sales.

Ruiz' plan emerged in April 2004, but ultimately derives from AMD's acquisition of the Geode SoC line from NatSemi. NatSemi had developed the product with a vision of low-cost PCs that could be given away by e-commerce companies, Internet service providers and the like in a bid to encourage less technology-orientated users to pay for their services.

In the end, this 'PC appliance' market never really materialised, hence NetSemi's move to sell Geode. PCs got cheaper and more popular, to the continued benefit of Intel - and, to a lesser extent, AMD - rather than the x86 SoC guys.

AMD's revival of the concept targets a new audience, one more likely to bite than Western consumers. The unit is believed to be pitched at the $185 price-point, rising to $249 with a display. Like NatSemi, AMD believes the machine will be sold and owned by service providers in much the same way almost all of the world's mobile phones are.

The unit is believed to run Windows CE and embedded versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer, and contain 128MB of memory, a 10GB hard dive and four USB ports. ®

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