RealTime IT News

AMD to Launch Cheap PC

AMD is preparing to launch a low-cost PC next week it hopes will encourage more people around the globe to surf the Internet.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker said it will debut its Personal Internet Communicator (PIC) on Oct. 28 at events in India and Latin America. The computer is about the size of a tissue box and runs on a 366 MHz AMD Geode GX 500 processor that uses 1 watt of power.

The device also comes with 128MB of RAM, a 3 1/2 internal disk drive with 10GB capacity, four USB ports, a monitor and a keyboard. AMD said its PIC operates using Microsoft's Windows CE kernel with XP extender so that users can access XP-based applications.

Initially, the PIC will only be available through Internet service providers (ISP) and only in India, Mexico, China, Russia and Brazil for a suggested price of $249 with the 15" VGA monitor and $185 without. The ISPs would also be responsible for service and support. AMD said the offer could eventually be extended to North American and European markets.

Steve Howard, a public relations representative with AMD's Personal Connectivity Solutions Group, said the PIC is key to AMD's "50x15" initiative, which began last December.

"This is our promise to empower 50 percent of the world's population with basic Internet access by the year 2015," Howard said adding that the proposal was implemented after AMD estimated some 200 million homes that could purchase a PC have yet to do so.

Howard said that AMD has chosen Solectron to manufacturer the PIC devices and has no intention of going into the PC manufacturing business on its own. Eventually, other third-party OEMs will make the inexpensive PCs as AMD's business model for its "50x15" plan calls for manufacturing to take place in the countries where they are sold.

"The idea of low-cost PCs for emerging markets has long been a dream that is only recently technically feasible," Michael Gartenberg, senior analyst with JupiterResearch said. "This type of system can allow users in these markets to participate in the benefits of the digital age with standard software tools from Microsoft." (JupiterResearch is owned by the same parent company of internetnews.com.)

The NIC device also has the distinction of being a totally enclosed device that requires no fan to cool the processor. Howard said that design feature was included to allow the computer to run in countries that need a more rugged design.

AMD's "50x15" plan is also a clear shot across the bow of the Intel juggernaut. The two companies have seen a definite rise in PC sales in the last six months.

Quarterly analyses of the PC market released this week by research firms IDC and Gartner show positive growth, especially in non-U.S. markets.

Gartner determined that worldwide PC shipments in the third quarter of 2004 increased 9.7 percent from the same period last year. IDC pegged worldwide growth at 12 percent, thanks to demand by businesses and strong growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).