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Intel Classmate PC Shows Up Again as the PeeWee Pivot

Way back in the dim reaches of time (2006), Intel got interested in the education laptop market. I’m sure you’ve seen the OLPC, right?  Intel was inspired by that machine and they came up with the Classmate PC.

The Intel Classmate PC was originally conceived as reference design. It used an Intel CPU and low cost components to demonstrate a way for local developers to come up with a low cost laptop that could be used in schools. I don’t think they ever were actually low cost, but that was the idea.

The one at right is the latest models, and it looks a little different from the original concept design. It’s running Windows 7 on an Intel Atom 1.66GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard disk, Wifi, 1.3MP webcam, speakers/mike, and it has a 10″  resistive touchscreen on a swivel.

Mike Cane tipped me to the product page on J&R. They’re selling it for $600, and that’s actually not a bad price.

It might seem high for the specs, but I checked a few sites (including Amazon) for similar laptops. Hardly anyone makes them anymore. This time last year I could have found at least a handful of models in the $400 to $1k range. Now I didn’t see anything new for less than $1200, aside from the Dell Inspiron Duo (unless I looked in the wrong place?).

I don’t know about you, but this shift in the market is far more interesting than the laptop.

Laptop convertibles similar to the one above used to be a solid segment of the laptop market. It wasn’t big, but it’s been around for years. And now it’s gone. If I had to guess, I would bet that tablets killed it off. To be more exact, I think the iPad killed off the laptop convertible.  Once people had a good tablet experience the extra hardware and maintenance cost of a laptop convertible just wasn’t worth the expense, IMO.

Of course, from a personal aspect I have to say I find this more than a little amusing. I’ve always been vaguely intending to buy a laptop convertible, and today I learned that the supply has dried up. Whoops.

On the other hand, I already have a tablet/laptop hybrid; it’s the eeePad Transformer. It’s very good at what it does, but I do wish I had a similar device that ran Windows.

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fjtorres November 30, 2011 um 5:18 pm

Well, convertibles were basically *second* wave tablet PCs and a response to corporate buyer concerns about on-screen keyboards. As things stand, the keyboard-phillic corporate market has been migrating to thin-and-lights, netbooks, and now "ultrabooks".
The slate-friendly Tablet PC market has forked into a market for industrial/ruggedized slates and a dormant consumer market frozen by the the imminent arrival of Win8 slates.
Today’s announcement of MS Office for iPad suggests that MS is no longer sure Win8 will suffice to satisfy corporate users and would rather sell them Office than migrate to an alternative.
They really should have done *something* (Courier, ZunePad, Win7, whatever) this year.

Nate Hoffelder November 30, 2011 um 6:58 pm

Except there already were light laptops on the market alongside the convertibles; I seriously considered some models 5 and 6 years ago. The current name of ultrabook is just a marketing label for products which already existed.

In fact, the same goes for netbook. I got a 12″ netbook over 6 years ago, long before anyone conceived of the name. It was just one of Dell’s laptop models at the time, not a netbook. But now it is a netbook.

fjtorres November 30, 2011 um 8:11 pm

Yeah. The purple Sony Vaios were a big hit at our place in the P3 era.
(Of course, the B-format was popular in asia even earlier.)

The popularity of convertibles over slates in the corporate market wasn’t because of weight; the convertibles were usually a pound heavier than their Slate equivalents like the NEC VersaPad and the TC1000. It was the ink note-taking and annotation during presentations and the attached keyboard for outside the conference room. The added weight was just the penalty they were willing to pay for the convenience.
Just bear in mind that the TabletPCs I’m talking about are circa 2002, running XP Tablet edition. The first such convertible was from Toshiba in early 2003 and HP followed shortly afterwards, and killing the TC1xxx line after taking over Compaq,
(WinCE convertibles and netbooks are even older, going back to the Sharp/Clio twins.)

fjtorres November 30, 2011 um 5:19 pm

Edit: make that: *see* them migrate to an alternative.

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