Thursday, February 26, 2009

Globalization through Netbook Development

Ethnography is a way to understand how and why to design the right products. -Intel, 2009

The growth of the global market is pushing innovation to almost limitless extents. The decline in the prices for micro-processing technology and an increased demand for solid state technologies has enabled computer manufacturers the ability to cut prices in desktop and laptop models. Now some of the typical laptop models made by companies like HP, Dell, or Toshiba can run in the $700 and higher range while netbooks, a term coined by Psion, run below that price range. Netbooks are a class of laptop that have a higher focus on wireless capabilities, internet usage, and mobility. Such netbooks evolved into further popularity because of programs like One Laptop Per Child Association, Inc (OLPC) who's goal was to develop low cost computing devices for educational use in developing countries. These programs have allowed for the creation of netbooks which price in the range of $100 to $500.

Intel has a particular initiative that has to deal with the concept of Ethnography. More specifically, Intel sought to develop ethnography with a focus “to design purpose-built solutions for education. Intel-powered classmate PC laptops are designed to meet the educational needs of students ages 5-14.” (Intel 2009) This drive for education technology and high emphasis on mobility lead Intel to develop the Classmate PC (by definition a netbook) that costs only $400 dollars and provided capabilities that out flank most other netbooks for the same or higher costs. This netbook is reflective of low cost solutions for connectivity without sacrificing productivity and capability.

What I particularly like about this netbook is the fact that it can be very useful for American students as well, especially the $500 tablet PC version. Some of the specs on this revolutionary computing device (tablet version) are as follows:

CPU: Intel® ATOM™ processor N270 1.6GHz Processor, Chipset: Intel® 945GSE, Formfactor: Clamshell / Tablet, Memory: 1GB / 512MB, Storage: 16GB / 8GB / 4GB Flash / or 1.8" HDD (60 GB), Operating Systems: Windows XP / Linux, Display: 8.9" 1024 x 600 Touch Screen, Network: 10/100M Ethernet / 802.11b/g/n WLAN, Mesh support (Linux only), Security: WPA, WPA-PSK, WPA2, WPA2-PSK, Keyboard: Water Resistant Keyboard, Battery Life: 6-cell battery (6 hours) 4-cell battery (4 hours), Audio: Integrated 2 channel audio, Speaker/Microphone: Integrated audio, built-in speaker and microphone, Dimensions: with handle 241 x 215 x (26.0 ~ 39.3) mm, Weight: 1.25-1.45 Kg, System I/O: 2 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 SD slot, VGA port, Camera (optional): 1.3 MP (rotated), Drop test: 50 cm

This is a quality netbook that is great for college students at $500 and looks to outperform typical laptops at the higher price range. The Intel Classmate PC is a large step in the right direction for the development of mobility and connectivity in developing nations and hopefully it will grow in popularity so students around the world can leverage its capabilities to become more connected and more competitive in this global market.

Here is a video review of the Intel Classmate PC Tablet for anyone who wants to get a visual representation of the greatness of this netbook.



  1. Sweet...maybe I can afford a new laptop...these netbooks look awesome

  2. In the late 1990's, during the dawn of the laptop era, there was a surge of tablet-PC's. The tablets lost favor when it was found that their marginalized performance was far outweighed by the computing powers of traditional notebooks. Nowadays, though, the limiting factor of any PC larger than a calculator has little to do with its size, and more to do with constraints such as chip architecture. When Apple pushed the Mac Air, the first heavy hitter joined the world of netbooks, though with a $1,500 price tag it still plays in a totally different ballpark.

    These educational net-book initiatives are interesting. OLPC suffers from terrible management (you can't promise the fabled $100 computer and not follow through), but I think now that Asus (Eee) and Intel (ClassmatePC) have thrown in their hats, its become business and not charity. Despite our best efforts, core technology of modern personal computers still operates on a Von Neuman architecture that requires roughly $200-300 of core components. These new netbooks show that once you're willing to break that $200 price-line you can actually turn profit and make this whole initiative worth-while.