Dell, Intel to team on low-cost laptops

Companies will build hardware to foster education in the developing world

Editor's note: The following story is from InfoWorld's 2008 April Fool’s spoof-news feature package. It is not true. Enjoy!

Dell and Intel today announced a new joint effort aimed at producing low-cost, portable computers for educators and students in the developing world.

The move represents the companies’ latest attempt to reach computing’s hottest new demographic, a market pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative.

“While we certainly appreciate the efforts of Mr. Negroponte’s group, we feel the OLPC project falls significantly short of the mark,” Dell chief marketing officer Mark Jarvis said in a conference call April 1. “We believe the combined experience and expertise of Dell and Intel will result in a solution that’s twice as powerful, twice as robust, and will offer twice the value to the customer.”

The new initiative, dubbed Two Laptops Per Child (TLPC), will be the first to offer a fully redundant, high-availability PC hardware solution emerging markets, Jarvis said.

“Even with a highly ruggedized design, in the developing world you always run the risk of hardware failure with any PC,” he said. “This way, they’ll have two.”

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Tom Rappone, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Channel Platforms Group, said the TLPC laptops will incorporate innovative technology.

Noting that the OLPC laptops can share Internet connections across ad-hoc wireless networks, Rappone said TLPC would go a step further, offering full, wireless CPU clustering capabilities across each pair of laptops.

“By pooling the computational resources of both laptops simultaneously, each TLPC customer will be guaranteed enough processor power to run Windows Vista,” he said, adding, “That’s our hope, anyway.”

Running Microsoft Windows instead of the OLPC’s Linux-based OS will also help to ensure that students in emerging markets will be fully engaged and empowered for the 21st century and beyond, Jarvis said.

“Much of the developing world still needs help with things like clean water and basic sanitation,” Jarvis said. “Have you ever met a Linux user? Let’s not shoot these people in the foot.”

In addition to a bundled copy of the newly branded Microsoft Windows Vista Charity Edition, each TLPC will also include a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), HDMI video-out, and a Blu-ray drive, which Intel’s Rappone said should help to “future proof” the platform.

The laptops will be powered by Intel Itanium processors, which Rappone said the company was able to provide “for a really, really sweet bargain.”

The announcement of the partnership has already spurred controversy. Earlier in the week, Edward Chiu, an economic policy analyst with the United Nations Development Programme, criticized TLPC as extravagant and wasteful. “For many families in the developing world, the cost of two laptops would be better spent on things like in-home heating and cooking facilities,” he said.

Dell’s Jarvis dismissed this complaint, however. “Look. The laptops will use Intel chips and Sony batteries,” he said. “Problem solved.”