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Intel to hop on third-world-PC bandwagon

Better to use old machines first?

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Intel is to follow AMD's lead and pitch an ultra-low cost PC at the developing world. It will tout a machine priced at significantly less than $300 "in the next several weeks", according the company VP Bill Siu.

Speaking in an interview with CRN, Siu said the system will provide full PC functionality to "take advantage of all the software and content" available on the Internet. He claimed that past attempts to develop a sub-$100 computer for the developing world have "missed the point" - they're too limited and can't be loaded with extra software. They're more like PDAs than PCs, he claimed.

On his mind must be AMD's 50x15 system, the Personal Internet Computer (PIC), launched in October 2004, equipped with Windows CE, and AMD Geode GX500 CPU, 128MB of memory, a 10GB hard disk and a built in modem. It too was launched to bring Internet access to the developing world and specifically increase Internet usage to 50 per cent of the population by 2015 - hence the 50x15.

AMD has shipped PIC through a number of developing world telcos and service providers. Its website lists 11 suppliers in Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and many of the Caribbean islands - though it has separately said India's VSNL and Mexico's CRC will both offer the device.

A better known machine than AMD's device is the $100 manually powered laptop being developed by MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte' One Laptop Per Child charity. Unlike the AMD PIC, the OLPC machine isn't shipping yet. The organisation hopes to have it out late 2006 or early 2007, but is waiting on donations and other funding to bring in enough cash to manufacture 5-10m boxes. They'll be made by Taiwan's Quanta.

All well and good, but charities like Computer Aid International are already cleaning up and shipping out unwanted machines - kit that would otherwise end up in landfill or require expensive dismantling and recycling - from the West and putting them in schools in Africa for as little as £39 a pop. ®

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