Next month, Intel will show off its next-generation Classmate laptop, which includes a touch screen and new features that make it easier for students to use.
The new Convertible Classmate is a tablet PC, with a touch screen that swivels to make data input easier. Intel will show prototypes of the laptop at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to be held in Las Vegas between Jan. 8 and 11.
Intel bills the Classmate as an educational laptop for kids in developing countries, but it will also be available in the general market. The touch-screen interface makes software more interactive and easier for kids to use, Intel said.
The Classmate is a reference design created by Intel, but the laptops are actually shipped by PC makers throughout the world. PC makers will discuss their plans to ship Convertible Classmate products at CES, an Intel spokeswoman said on Wednesday. Laptops built by using the reference design will become available in early 2009.
The new laptop has a clamshell design with an 8.9-inch screen. Input of data can be done either through a stylus or by touch. There is an option to rest palms on the touch screen while inputting data.
The laptop has a number of other bells and whistles, including an accelerometer that changes the display's orientation horizontally or vertically depending on the laptop's position.
The Convertible Classmate will run on an Intel Atom processor and come loaded with either the Windows or Linux OS.
With the new Classmate, Intel is a step ahead of its prime competitor, the XO laptop from nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which plans to offer a touch-screen interface in its XO-2 laptop, due to ship in 2010. The XO-2 will include a software-based, touch-sensitive keyboard and two touch-screen displays.
The laptop is also an upgrade from the current Classmate PC, which is widely known as Classmate 2. Classmate 2 is a no-frills laptop without a touch screen that can be used for basic applications such as surfing the Web and checking e-mail. Priced at around US$300, Classmates do include many of the basic features found in laptops today, like USB ports and wireless networking capabilities.
In India, the Classmate laptop is available under the MiLeap brand from HCL starting at Rs. 17,000 (US$350). Olidata sells Classmate PCs in Europe under the JumPC brand. Computer Technology Link (CTL) sells the laptop under the 2go PC brand in the U.S. online and through retailers.
Intel has seen success with its Classmate PC. Earlier this year it announced it would ship about 500,000 Classmates to basic-level education students through the Portuguese government for the current school year.