Intel on Tuesday announced a reference design for a new 7-inch education tablet, which will rekindle the chip maker's rivalry with nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child in the area of providing computing devices as learning tools.
The Studybook tablet is targeted at students in developing countries, and a rugged design allows the device to withstand a 70-centimeter drop to concrete, said Wayne Grant, director of research and planning at Intel. The tablet comes with either Microsoft's Windows 7 or Google's Android operating systems, and runs on a single-core Intel Atom Z650 processor with a clock speed of 1.5GHz.
The tablet weighs 525 grams (1.15 pounds) and offers 5.5 hours of battery life on active usage, which pales in comparison to iPad's estimated 10 hours battery life. The Studybook supports up to 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The tablet's multitouch screen can display images at a 1024-by-600-pixel resolution.
Intel is working with manufacturers who will offer the Studybook to distributors, who may also sell the tablet to consumers, Grant said. The tablet is priced between US$199 to $299, but distributors will set the final price.
Intel's Studybook comes as users are indicating a preference for tablets over netbooks for basic computing. The tablet is the third product in Intel's line of low-power computing devices for the education market. Intel in 2007 announced the Classmate netbook, which was followed by the 2010 release of the Convertible Classmate, which had a 10.1-inch rotating touchscreen.
The Studybook tablet also opens a new chapter in Intel's rivalry with One Laptop Per Child, which showed working units of the XO-3 education tablet at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The XO-3 has an 8-inch screen and is priced under $100, and is ready to ship after years in the making. OLPC originally squared off with Intel when the organizations were pitching netbooks as an education tool for students in developing countries.
Beyond OLPC's XO-3, many tablets are already available at much lower prices than Intel's Studybook, with some priced under $100. But Grant argued that Intel is adding more value with software geared towards learning.
Intel is bundling a range of classroom software to provide a more interactive and engaging learning experience to students. Also included is textbook e-reading software from Kno, which last year received a $20 million cash fusion from Intel.
The Studybook is also a way for Intel to expand its presence in the tablet market, where most devices today sport ARM processors. Intel will be releasing faster and more power-efficient Atom chips code-named Clover Trail later this year that will improve performance and battery life compared to the tablets based on the current Atom processor. Clover Trail tablets will reach market alongside Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS, which is designed for touch and will work on tablets.
Grant did not say if Intel would offer Windows 8 in future Studybooks. But for students seeking a touch interface, Android will be acceptable, Grant said.
For Intel, the developing market is a better launching point for its education tablets than the developed world, said Roger Kay , principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.
"It's a promising area. Android tablets are an empty and less populated square in the matrix," Kay said, adding that Apple dominates the education market in the U.S. Apple recently launched the iBooks 2 tablet application for the iPad, which will bring multimedia textbooks to students.
Intel's Grant said that the StudyBook tablet is not relying on a cloud-based approach for learning as Internet connectivity can be spotty in developing countries. Instead, a lot of the content will be stored locally on tablets.
The Studybook has a two digital cameras, USB port, SIM card slot, mini-SD card slot, Wi-Fi and a HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port to connect the device to high-definition TVs. The Oak Trail processor is capable of handling high-definition video playback.