WCIT - Intel invests $1B to sell PCs in developing world

Intel said Tuesday it planned to spend US$1 billion to launch its low-cost EduWise and Community PC computers in developing countries.

In an effort to reach the world's next billion PC users, Intel said Tuesday that it plans to spend US$1 billion (AU$1.3 billion) over the next five years to deliver Internet access to developing countries.

Intel, of Santa Clara, California, will spend the money on three things: designing new types of affordable PCs, spreading connectivity with WiMAX wireless broadband networks and training 10 million teachers to educate users about the new technology.

The new PC designs will include EduWise, a small notebook PC intended for student computing and interactive learning, and the Community PC, a ruggedized computer intended for public-access kiosks in rural areas.

Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini is expected to demonstrate a prototype of EduWise during a speech Wednesday at the World Congress on Information Technology.

In announcing the funding plan, Intel was careful to say that it is not getting into the PC-building business -- the company will contract with manufacturers for the new designs.

Still, Intel will keep designing new computers. Under a program called Discover the PC, Intel will design six more types of PC in the next two years, each one tailored for the demands of users in a specific region.

The EduWise PC can dispel heat without a fan, and minimizes motherboard components in a small chassis, according to Intel. The computer will use an Intel microprocessor to run either Microsoft Windows XP Starter Edition or Linux. Prices will be set by distributors, such as Telmex in Mexico.

Intel will push EduWise sales by making deals with local telecommunication companies and government agencies in Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.

Intel has designed the Community PC to survive rural conditions such as dust, high temperature and humidity. The computer supports remote diagnostics so it can be repaired without a visit from a technician. It boasts power consumption of less than 100 Watts for all peripherals. And in the event of a power outage, it can draw electricity from a car battery.

Intel will drive sales through its "Jaagruti" program to build computer kiosks in rural villages throughout India. Each kiosk will hold one Community PC.

The announcement of the "World Ahead" plan comes just days after Otellini announced US$1 billion in spending cuts at the company's meeting with financial analysts on Thursday. Otellini proposed those cuts in the wake of the company's estimate that its 2006 revenue would fall 3 percent to US$37.7 billion. He also pledged to reorganize the company over the next 90 days.

But analysts said the investment in the developing world could pay off.

"There's been a lot of talk about getting cheap PCs into the hands of folks in developing markets -- Negroponte's effort is the best known -- but if they don't know how to use them, it won't work," said Richard Shim, a senior research analyst with IDC, speaking of the efforts of Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. Negroponte founded the One Laptop Per Child organization last year with the aim of building US$100 laptops for schoolchildren in emerging and developing countries.

"One billion dollars is certainly a big investment, but what's good about it is that it's comprehensive; they have infrastructure, PC and education," Shim said of Intel's initiative.

Likewise, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has designed the Personal Internet Communicator, a US$185 machine for first-time users in India and Latin America. AMD plans to use the platform to extend Internet access and computing capability to 50 percent of the world's population by 2015.

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Ben Ames

IDG News Service
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