RealTime IT News

Not-So-Pricey Internet Device Hits Europe

In a small step towards its goal of selling affordable internet communications devices to developing countries worldwide, AMD announced its first significant rollout in Turkey this week. AMD is expected to make another announcement of a geographic rollout elsewhere next week, but would not confirm details at this time.

DOL, the largest internet access provider in Turkey, announced availability of the Minicom Personal Internet Communicator available for $19.95 per month which includes internet access and support.

A three-pound, ruggedized device, the Minicom PIC runs Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, a close cousin of Windows designed for small devices. The PIC also has a minimum of moving parts, reducing maintenance issues and has no fan so it's quiet. Word processing and spreadsheet applications are built in so, like a PC, the PIC doesn't have to be online to be used productively. With VGA included it can connect to most monitors.

AMD's PIC design is based on AMD's Geode low-power processor and can connect to either dial-up or broadband services. Internet use is estimated to be only nine percent in Turkey, and DOL hopes devices like the PIC, available on what is essentially a low cost lease basis, will raise Internet use in education and elsewhere.

"With the minicom PIC, we are able to provide consumers with a complete solution to not only access the Internet, but to expand educational and business opportunities," Orhan Goksal, chief executive officer of DOL said in a statement.

AMD has staked out an aggressive goal it calls 50 x 15, which refers to getting fifty percent of the world computer access by the year 2015. AMD plans to license the PIC to local manufacturers in different regions. In the U.S., Radio Shack offers a version through its radioshack.com website for $249 after a $50 rebate.

In a similar vein of making computers more affordable throughout the world, the MIT Media Lab launched a research initiative to develop a $100 laptop. The unit is slated to be available through a non-profit association it's established called One Laptop per Child. A working protototype was shown last month. The initiative is headed by Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and co-founder of the Media Lab. The notebooks will not be sold commercially, rather they will be made available to schools directly in developing countries via government grants.

The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop that will include a hand crank as one way to power it, which will come in handy in venues where access to power could be limited. Based on a 500 MHz AMD processor the current specs also call for the inclusion of WiFi, USB ports, and 1 GB of storage.

But this radically cheap notebook is still a ways off from delivery. OLPC says it hopes to have units available to ship by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Manufacturing won't begin until 5 to 10 million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance.

AMD's much bigger rival Intel launched a series of platform definition centers earlier this fall in Bangalore, India; Cairo, Egypt; Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Shanghai, China. Their aim is to help local manufacturers build and sell Intel-based computers. Some of these low cost systems will take local conditions into account, such as the option to run on a car battery in areas where continuous power isn't assured.