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Intel Hardware

Intel to Make Cheap Flash Laptop 202

sien writes "In a similar vein to the One Laptop Per Child computer Intel have announced that they intend to produce a similar cheap laptop using flash storage.The entry of Intel and the declaration that Microsoft intend to get Windows running on the One Laptop Per Child machine suggests that there may be a general market for a cheap, robust laptop without hard drive or optical storage."
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Intel to Make Cheap Flash Laptop

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  • Strange new world. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Big Nothing ( 229456 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:16AM (#17129642)
    Microsoft and inexpensive seems like an odd combination to me. Same goes for flash drives. Durable? Yes. Cheap? No.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by melonman ( 608440 )
      In my experience of an embedded linux application using CF for storage, the CF wasn't especially durable if you thrash it like a hard disc. Surely the main point of using this form of storage is to reduce power consumption, which either means much longer battery life or (probably in this case) much cheaper batteries. It also helps to get to a point where you don't need a fan, which in turn means less moving parts and less holes in the case for the monsoon to pour through.
      • Just out of curiosity, were you using the CF as swap space? I can imagine it wouldn't last long under those conditions, particularly if the system was also RAM-starved (or any situation where RAM working set). But as a regular hard drive, it seems like it ought to be okay for a while (though I suppose you'd want to disable logging, too, as much as possible). How fast were your systems failing?

        I've often wondered how CF or other limited-write systems handle swapping and memory-management. It seems like it i
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tylernt ( 581794 )
          It should be possible to write a Linux kernel or fs patch for a "flash-mode" not unlike the existing patches for laptop-mode. Laptop-mode saves up disk writes (meaning that Bad things happen if you should lose power) and then commits them all in one go. I'm sure you could tune that same idea for flash storage. You would probably need some code in the filesystem so that if an application truncated and then rewrote a file, you could examine which sectors didn't change between the old and new versions, and onl
    • Windows CE Licensing [], you would probably want 'core' ($15) as it comes with Word and the other goodies ...
    • by yabHuj ( 10782 )
      No: Flash is more expensive per GB when measured in quantities.

      Yes: look at PDA memorey requirements, or PCs just for Mail, Web and a bit of letter writing - there 1 GB is plenty. And in Flash still cheaper than the cheapest HD (80GB or where is the cheapest HD nowadays?)
      • I agree: plenty of size for what the projected use would need. (Though I'm sure most kids can find ways to use whatever space you provide them + n.

        Another thing to look at is the ease of repair. I'd much rather replace a CF chip than a hard drive, wouldn't y'all?

        The upgrade path would be a bit cheaper as well, one would think.

        I have to say, I like the whole idea of giving a bunch of cheap, limited hardware to kids (regardless of socioeconomic status). I have visions of the Genius Colonists in Fredrick Pohl'
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      ah but you forget that in markets outside of desktop Windows PC's( all other markets ) Microsoft has lost billions and has paid companies/businesses to use their products. They've lost over $8 billion on Windows CE, they are losing billions on Xbox, they plan on losing billions on Zune. Granted, they've only been willing to deal with the OEM or distributor with regards to moving money to them for pushing the product but it shows Microsoft is willing to use its billions in monopoly money to purchase marketsh
  • Robust? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AliasTheRoot ( 171859 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:16AM (#17129650)
    Isn't the weakest point of a laptop the LCD screen rather than the hard-disk?
    • by AusIV ( 950840 )
      Probably, but this isn't a chain that's only as strong as it's weakest link. If you can cut costs on hard disks, but not on LCDs, you're still saving money.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        And if you'd stop putting apostrophes where they don't belong you could have saved a byte in that post.
        • shush. we've all read enough 10000 word run-on posts on the net, dont harass the man for over punctuating - the alternative is far worse.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Perhaps. But we don't have any practical alternatives for LCD yet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mce ( 509 )

      In my experience, the 2 weakest links are the disk and the hinges of the screen. Personally, I've only had disk problems, but looking back at the company laptop problems I've seen, the hinges (that is: including the electrical connections inside) probably come close in second place.

      In terms of "what can you do about it that the customer is willing to pay for", the disk is by far at the top of the list. Apart from the complete newbies, customers do understand that there are major risks involved in disk f

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hognoxious ( 631665 )
        the 2 weakest links are the disk and the hinges of the screen.
        And the batteries. Three. The three weakest links are the disc, the screen hinges, the battery and the keyboard.
        • Re:Robust? (Score:4, Funny)

          by werfele ( 611119 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:21PM (#17130934)
          Three. The three weakest links are the disc, the screen hinges, the battery and the keyboard.
          Amongst the weakest links are such diverse elements as the disc, the screen hinges, the battery, the keyboard and the nub thingy pointing device.
          • Three. The three weakest links are the disc, the screen hinges, the battery and the keyboard.

            Amongst the weakest links are such diverse elements as the disc, the screen hinges, the battery, the keyboard and the nub thingy pointing device.
            Don't forget an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms...
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Lord Ender ( 156273 )
            NOBODY expects the failure of A LAPTOP!!!
  • a third computer being offered by an Indian company
    Any idea what company this is?
    And what computer is being offered?

    • Competition will only serve customers. If there are three vendors selling the equivalent of an OLPC, it can only help the governments/poor looking to buy these things. The companies will have to compete on services and price, which is good. That is, so long as no one vendor can put excessive pressure (think bribes/threats) on buyers.

      As much as I don't like Microsoft cruft they deserve a chance to get into these markets as much as anyone else, so long as they don't get into these markets by using illic
      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        Microsoft does not "DESERVE A CHANCE" IMO and I will say that you will win the lottery before Microsoft actually competes in a way we'd a business to compete( ie better, faster, cheaper, etc ). They've never done this and nothing has shown that they've experienced some kind of epiphany which moves them to being truely competitive. IMO.

        It is good to see others attempting to join the market for enabling the worlds kids.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gwayne ( 306174 )
      Simputer [] comes to mind...
  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:21AM (#17129754)
    Afterall, I can get a Toshiba Satellite with 512M RAM, 60G hardrive, 15.4 screen for 400 bucks from Best Buy.

    Plus, it's too big to be a PDA, too small to be a usable laptop. Maybe a decent movie player, but that seems about it.

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:22AM (#17129766)
    If I could buy a drop in flash memory replacement for my laptop's hard drive and the economics made sense (say US$500 for a 20gig device), I'd buy it tomorrow. 99% of the data that I use could easily be fit in that amount of space and if it didn't, I could keep relatively cheap removable flash cards around for data that I need once in a blue moon. The increase in battery life, decrease in heat, and decrease in noise would be well worth the additional expense for me.

    • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:30AM (#17129944)
      Pick up two 8GB iPod Nanos for $250 each and duct tape them onto your laptop. As an added bonus, you can RAID them! Sure, it's not 20GB, but at 16GB it's not too bad... : p
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by AikonMGB ( 1013995 )

      So what, you normally use around 20.2GB?


    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      It's a moot point now. The newest Segate laptop hard drives do an incredible job now.

      I replaced the drive in my D640 with a 100gig seagate low power 5400 rpm model and the laptop runs cooler and I get longer run times. Also you cant hear the thing spin anymore. You used to almost burn your hand on the spot where the hdd was now it's only warm to the touch.

      Upgrade to a decent laptop drive with current tech. Most laptop makers shove low grade crap in there to keep profits up. (dell certainly does as well a
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thue ( 121682 )
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      You aren't going to fix the biggest power draws, that would be the CPU and screen. The Pmax of a notebook hard drive is 2.5 W, typical power draw may be 1W. For a typical notebook, if you make a drive that doesn't take any power, I think you would increase battery life increase by maybe ten minutes.

      I have not had a problem with hard drive noise. My notebooks hard drives are nearly silent if they make any noise audible to me at all. The CPU fans are a little louder, but still that's not very loud.
  • It would be even better if they could put it in a truly portable format. With flash it could even be an instant-on type device! To make it small, and inexpensive, they should keep the screen size and resolution low. MS could probably develop a smaller footprint of win/outlook/office. I'm sure Adobe could slim down their reader a bit. They might even consider going to a "tablet"-like format with a miniture keyboard.

    Of course, to be really innovative, they could add wireless and connectivity to the cell high-
  • No sense. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:24AM (#17129802) Homepage

    As a third world country, why should I buy this for $400 when I can buy OLPCs for like $150?

    As someone in a first world country, why should I buy this when I can buy a REAL laptop for $400 or under thanks to sales, rebates, the used/refurbished/surplus market, etc?

    As for the optical drive, this made be think that I use mine for two things: ripping CDs and installing software. I can see why someone wouldn't need on in an OLPC type situation (or where they want to sell these), not to mention that they are fragile (relative to flash memory and other parts of the computer).

    • by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:49AM (#17130330) Journal
      It is actually sub-$300, better specced than an OLPC, several *gigs* of memory (512M in the OLPC) and a faster processor. This is beefier than an OLPC and built to survive a harsher environment than a standard notebook. It fits a need, IMO.

      engadget []'s review from 2 months ago.
      • by smoker2 ( 750216 )

        It is actually sub-$300, better specced than an OLPC, several *gigs* of memory (512M in the OLPC) and a faster processor.

        Well, actually :

        a)"The Classmate PC is also now being labeled as "sub $300," From your link. (My bold)

        b)"Although the final price has not yet been determined, Intel says that it will probably start selling them at about $250, and reduce the price to $200 as the volume of orders increases." (My bold) My link []

        c)It has 256MB RAM as standard and 1GB Flash. Intels product brief [] [4 page pdf

    • As someone in a first world country, why should I buy this when I can buy a REAL laptop for $400 or under thanks to sales, rebates, the used/refurbished/surplus market, etc?

      Yeah, I can get a luggable for $400. Big screen, no battery life, delicate. Don't mention the hassle of rebates, which is so bad I don't even factor them into prices when I'm making purchase decisions. A truly portable laptop costs at least a grand. I'd like a OLPC-like device myself. Very rugged, and powerful enough to run vim on (perfe
    • Your laptop has moving parts. A flash-based laptop does not. All other things being equal, no moving parts is WAY preferable to having moving parts. They last longer, are more reliable, use less power...
  • ...bah... forget it! No one thinks that's funny anymore except me.
  • there may be a general market for a cheap, robust laptop without hard drive or optical storage

    Ah, so *there* is where our handheld industry went! And with all seriousness, I have been horrified with all of the handhelds since the Palm first came out. I can't understand why they don't build general-purpose cheap and fully-functional small computing devices -- that aren't obtusely designed and super fucking expensive.

    I'd love to get my hands on one of Negroponte's OLPC laptop thingies. If Microsoft is ge
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      I think the handheld market moved to a point where companies grew too large to sustain low margin products. The low-end Palms( III and m105 ) are great handhelds but they made very little on these and as Palm was purchased by larger and larger companies, they insisted on more profits. And, IMO, one of the main reasons cheap devices have disappeared is the marketing guys need for a color screen and more ghee-whiz features. The battery power and processing power requirements drove the system prices up up and
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:29AM (#17129928)
    Intel and Microsoft are big corporations. Big corporations:

    1. can't afford to take chances when there's even slight chance a startup may become a viable competitor
    2. can afford money-wise and resource-wise to react to even the silliest of those potential competitors

    I'm not saying OLPC is silly, but I'm just saying: don't make a big deal of it. Intel/MS just want their options covered.

    Let's not forget that cheap computers for poor countries were made long before OLPC (and all failed) and will continue to be made. The least thing: it'll be fun to watch the development in this "market".
    • 3. Big corporations can afford such small expenditures.

      Why? The return is so great on the investment. It would probably cost less to offer tens of thousands of these things that to pay for their name to be favorably placed in major markets around the world.

      • 4. Big corporations know how to get press releases into the IHT by referring to another "cool" project.

        It doesn't matter that they're not competitive on price, or even whether the device will ever actually appear.
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      But now, Bill Gates has billions in his foundation to purchase his way into the hearts and minds of the worlds youth. IMO, he may be retiring from Microsoft, but he's going to be peddling their 'stuff' in direct competition to the One Laptop Per Child project. And he'll do it not because it's the right thing to do but because he thinks the Microsoft way is the One Microsoft Way and only way. IMO.

  • by ravee ( 201020 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:29AM (#17129930) Homepage Journal
    In fact, it is 4 times costlier than the one hundred dollar laptop being developed by OLPC. And more over, OLPC project is purely a humanitarian project aimed at improving the education of the children. Where as Intel's project even though commendable is no where near to the lofty ideals of OLPC.
    • by geobeck ( 924637 )

      It wasn't long ago there was an article here about a 20GB flash drive being $750-$1000. If an entire laptop containing one is now estimated at around $400, these things will be cheap quite soon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mobby_6kl ( 668092 )
      The $100 laptop doesn't cost $100. It costs $150 and that price, according to the article, doesn't include shipping. OLPC would be manufactured in China, while Intel plans to do it (at least the final stages) in Brazil. Think jobs & additional demand for the better education these computers would be providing.

      I'm not making the final judgement yet, I haven't even seen the complete tech specs for it, or results of the trials.
      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        Smart move by Intel to include having the manufacturing done in the country they're selling into. It will make the devices more expensive but it gives the government a good public marketing pitch for keeping the money local. I don't know if they could even consider using Microsoft on these if they're pitching localized financial spending.

        Unfortunately, this doesn't scale out to all countries but will work in the largest of markets. You know, the ones that'll have the most press potential. Interesting plan..
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
      Who gives a fuck?

      Intel apparently sees a commercial profit in something like this. I happen to agree - it's basically what I've been looking for in a computer for years.

      If 3rd world countries want their own computers, they should build the infrastructure to have a use for them, not expect 1st world countries (that is, the US) to come up ways for them to use inexpensive computers. We're doing them a disservice anyway - they need things like domestically-initiated agriculture, industry, and commerce, not more
  • "suggests that there may be a general market for a cheap, robust laptop without hard drive or optical storage."

    No? India and other countries are already miffed that the U.S. has tried to foist substandard hardware on their "poor" populations to make technology more accessible.

    While the intentions of OLPC program are commendable it really ignores the fact that basic education and literacy - a prerequiste for computer use, and power are fundamental components that are not readily available in developing areas
    • by emj ( 15659 )
      Actually you should take a look at the software being developed for OLPC, there are some cool things that lets you be very creative without reading.
    • India and other countries are already miffed that the U.S. has tried to foist substandard hardware on their "poor" populations
      Considering the quality of the software they send back, I'd say it's a tie overall.
    • While the intentions of OLPC program are commendable it really ignores the fact that basic education and literacy - a prerequiste for computer use, and power are fundamental components that are not readily available in developing areas of the world.

      Er, no, actually its aimed at exactly the problems of basic education and literacy (content aimed at that is as much part of the project as the hardware), and a big part of the design was aimed at making it usable independent of power infrastructure.

      Your charges

  • And the Final Jeopardy question is:

    Q: What do I really need in a laptop?

    I figure NX, vnc, GoToMyPC or one if its friends, or any other remote-screen system will let me get to my office or home PC from the road or around the campus and really, that's all I need in a laptop. Of course, it should have local audio/camera for videoconferencing and local printing for when I need it.

    As far as truly local/disconnected operation goes, I need lightweight viewers for Microsoft Office so I can read and print files and
  • by awfar ( 211405 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:44AM (#17130208)
    said better elsewhere...

    Microsoft/Intel cannot lose the Windows mindshare, marketshare, niche market, quarterly analysis, exposure, or allow the embarrasment of missing a potentially revolutionary nascent technology or low-budget competition.

    How much is the exposure worth? Brand imprint? Visual or Process (how to do things) imprint? Said to be lots.

    They would do the project(s) at a loss.
  • by carrier lost ( 222597 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:45AM (#17130232) Homepage
    Seeing as how MS seems to favor a $100 price-point for its OS, the laptop would have to cost $0.

    If that actually happens, and then if, by some remote chance, refunds for the Microsoft Tax were suddenly made mandatory (by a state's law, say, Massachussetts). Wowee-Zowee. Free laptops for everyone, courtesy Mr. Gates!

    (I'm not holding my breath)

  • I am not sure how a laptop with flash memory would be any cheaper than one with a hard drive. Also, Microsoft is not going to be doing this for free, so the OS would be adding to the cost (unlike one with Linux). Last but not least, flash memory has a limited number of read/writes, and it gets slower as it approaches that limit.

    I like the idea of a cheap laptop for the world masses, I just don't see how this fits the requirements.


    Paul C.
    Sr Developer [] - The Open Source
    • Vibration and shock are the enemies of most HD tech. Flash is pretty much invulnerable to that compared to hard disks and while it's write operational life is less than a hard drive, it's seek time is nonexistent and it has a superlative read lifespan.

      For a device where it's not a simple matter of ordering a HD or popping over to Fry's or CompUSA for a replacement part, Flash, if used right is the right answer even if it's "more expensive" as the cheaper part is actually more expensive in the long-term sen
      • Hi all - so a naive newbie question about flash drives: their operational life is less than hard drives, but how much so?

        How about a flash drive in a shared student house firewall box? I've been running Ipcop on an old pc to support a house full of college students who probably all go on line for a couple of hours each day. It seems like overkill to have a big old pc consuming a lot of electricity for this simple job. I love the idea of swapping out the old pc for something a lot smaller and tidier running
  • And loose the concept of a laptop. Do I know what to make of it? Would I be posting here?

    There is something that I would carry with me contstantly. But do you
    need a full Vista? Do you need a useable keyboard? How much 'disk space' do you really need?
    If it had integrated wifi, cell/w bluetooth, media options, gps? And was LIGHT and COOL and


  • I'll bite - where are the parts lists, schematics, etc to build this now? I have a 1GB USB drive - what do I attach to it to make a computer? Particularly one that can play MP3/OGG? Where's O'Reilly's hacks magazine when you need it? I mean, with a Linux bootable distro and a RAM drive, this could be pretty slick.
    • by xtal ( 49134 )
      You could do a pretty good job with a nanoITX, and a small TFT. The keyboard would be the biggest challenge to do cost-effectively. Then there's the matter of getting it in a case.

      I've used a industrial PC with no HD as a primary computer in the field before. It worked well. Looked like a flat slab of metal connected to a screen though, with a half-size keyboard.

  • no market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:09PM (#17130676)
    Making windows run on the OLPC laptop has nothing to do with perceived marketability.
    Microsoft are just trying to establish/maintain a monopoly on schools software. They are trying to brainwash kids into the microsoft mentality so they've got customers for life.
  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:17PM (#17130864)
    No matter how much RAM you have, Windows still seems to need a swap file that is constantly being written to (not to mention all the writing to the registry). Given that current flash technologies have a limited number erase/write cycles, I hope the flash-based hard-drive is replaceable (CF card maybe?).
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      I would bet this would run Windows CE or Windows Mobile or what every they are calling it now.
      If not I am sure that that you can turn off the swap if need be.
    • Right on the swap, but I don't think it's really a big problem if you make a few changes in the memory management system.

      How often is the registry written? Isn't it mostly on software install/uninstalls? I really don't see a person needing to install tends of thousands of programs.
    • by Electrum ( 94638 )
      No matter how much RAM you have, Windows still seems to need a swap file that is constantly being written to

      Nice FUD. You can disable [] the pagefile [] in Windows XP.
  • Mobile phones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:18PM (#17130874) Homepage
    Within a decade, mobile phones will be the primary computing device for the majority of the market. Yes, you'd connect it to a docking station at home and at the office so there's a proper input device (keyboard/mouse) and output device (TV/monitor).. but for 90% mobile devices will be powerful enough to handle e-mail, the interweb and calendar/groupware functionality.

    Heck, even as a software engineer the only reason I use a laptop is the lack of a proper Wifi, keyboard and screen for my phone.
  • The OLPC or a similar project is another great way for the Gates Foundation to funnel money back into Microsoft while perpetuating the Windows monopoly. That's why they have such an interest in running Windows on the OLPC platform and making a competing platform. Better yet if the mesh networking doesn't quite work.

    I can imagine Bill going to various corrupt governments (look at Thailand right now for an example) and saying "We can run Windows on those things and make them useful for you, and the Foundati
  • I enjoyed reading Wil Shipley's take on this [] and his somewhat humbling encounter with Nicholas Negroponte. Wil's conclusion for the those who don't want to read through it:

    ...So do you think Nicholas Negroponte will feel like he's lost if his OLPC initiative forces Intel and Microsoft to subsidize PCs for children in every developing nation in the world?

    I do not.

    Oh, sure, I know he's a proud man, and naturally part of him wants the credit for changing the world. And he'll be (validly) pissed that the Class

  • PDF brochure is here [].

    On the one hand, not as inexpensive as the OLPC, and it seems to lack some of the features like the mesh networking.

    On the other hand, you might actually be able to buy one, and it should be able to play StarCraft.

    Intel FTW!
  • I thought this concept died in the US along with the HP200LX.
  • Intel has the idea right (on the business side--I'm not here to argue the socio-economic points of money spent on computers in non-1st world economies), and the track record to know that economies of scale and scope will drop prices.

    My question is this? With other players in the laptop market selling machines in the sub-$500 range, why not leverage some of those existing supply chains and commoditize basic laptops (let's set aside the typical supply-chain Wintel duopoly for this discussion), pushing thos
  • It's an HP Jornada 820. It's from 1999 and it isn't particularly powerful as processing chips go. You can pick one up on eBay for about $300.

    But it's possibly the coolest device I own. It's footprint is an inch or so smaller than a sheet of typing paper, but it has a full laptop keyboard, a big-enough screen and no moving parts. All Flashcard memory. The battery runs for twice as long as that of normal laptop. It has enough screen size to make itself useful where a palm-sized device is not. That is,

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes