Intel, Asustek Announce Plans for Low-Cost Laptop

Intel detailed plans Tuesday to team up with Asustek Computer, the world's largest maker of computer motherboards, to make a notebook PC that would cost as little as $200 aimed at the education market in developing countries.

Intel , the world's largest chipmaker, has distributed laptops to children in developing countries for years, but has yet to put them into the kind of mass production planned by another group, the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.

Intel and Asustek's low-cost PC would be a fully-fledged, low-end notebook, while the OLPCs are green-and-white plastic, kid-friendly laptops that can be powered with hand cranks when electricity is not available. They cost about $180 each.

"It's another way of solving the same problem," said Sean Maloney, head of Intel worldwide sales and marketing in a telephone interview ahead of his keynote speech at Taiwan's Computex, the world's No. 2 computer fair. "The world is a big place and there's room for lots of these things."

Intel's and Asustek's move comes after the OLPC Foundation said last month it expected to start delivering millions of its low-cost notebooks in October. It is the foundation's most ambitious attempt yet to provide the devices, which analysts say could shape PC industry growth in developing countries.

Maloney said the laptop will use a lower-end microprocessor as the brains of the notebook, but declined to give further details. It will likely have 7- or 10-inch diameter screens, either a traditional hard disk drive or a flash memory hard drive and wireless Internet.

One model will cost about $200, with others going up to around $400 or $500 for the PC, Maloney said. Asustek is also the world's largest maker of notebook PCs. The PC, available later this year, will use either a variant of the freely available Linux operating system or it will run Microsoft's Windows XP.

New 3-Series Chipset Family

Maloney also introduced its 3-Series chipset family, which is designed from the ground up to run Intel's upcoming 45 nanometer processors, code-named Penryn, that are expected later this year. Chipsets are a collection of memory, input- output and other chips that connect the processor to the motherboard.

"These chipsets will be the basis for most of the PC industry for the next 18 to 24 months," Maloney said. "They're not just 45 nanometer ready, but they're much more energy efficient than previous versions."

The Penryn processors are made with circuitry as small as 45 nanometers, about 1/2000th the width of a human hair and can have higher performance at the same power consumption, or the same performance at lower power consumption, or various combinations of the two.

Intel said that the 3-Series chipsets enable better PC performance, clearer definition video and give home-theater- like sound and video quality.

There will be a range of chipsets that can go into entry- level PCs, media PCs, as well as super high-end gaming PCs that can cost thousands of dollars each.

Intel is introducing the chipset family as it regains ground lost over the last two years to smaller, scrappy rival Advanced Micro Devices .

AMD's market share in the first quarter of this year slipped more than 5 percentage points to less than 20% for the first time since 2005 as Intel revamped its own product line with its Core and Core 2 processors. It also slashed prices on older chips as it ramped up production of faster microprocessors.

Intel's Maloney also detailed plans for Intel's Core 2 Extreme mobile processor that it expects to ship in the third quarter of this year. Notebook PCs have for some time been the fastest-growing part of the PC market.

"You are seeing an emergence of notebook gaming," Maloney said, noting that PC makers are now selling laptop PCs that boast 22-inch-diameter screens.