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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 ) <big.nothing@bigger.com> 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.

  • 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 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.

  • No sense. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> 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 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 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)

  • by greengarden ( 1036194 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:47AM (#17130282) Homepage
    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.


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  • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:48AM (#17130308) Journal
    Each charitable group should work with their ability. If you are good at clothes, then so be it. If you are good at food, then so be it. Computer companies are good with computers. Duh! Right? So, solve that need. The needs of these poor countries go beyond just food, water and shelter. They need education so they can lift themselves out of poverty. And since this world is becoming heavily computerized, give them the tools that will benefit them. I fully support any effort to get computers to the poor.
  • Re:Robust? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mce ( 509 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @11:50AM (#17130338) Homepage Journal

    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 failure. They also feel the heat and hear the noise. So they're willing to fork over a few extra greenbacks to get a no-heat, no-noise, no-mechanical breakage replacement solution. There's no way you're going to convince them to pay more for better designed more robust hinges, however. Besides, no vendor will want to admit to having done a bad job on those in the past.

  • 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.
  • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:15PM (#17130828) Homepage Journal

    Those of us who actually want to help the third world are against simply giving them food. If you're going to give them anything, you give them what they need to produce food. Otherwise people just have more babies because they're healthier, they're even further beyond their ability to feed themselves, and now you have MORE mouths to feed. Or children to die of starvation.

    Giving them computers, if done properly, is giving the gift of education. The only way out is through.

  • 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?).
  • My point... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:18PM (#17130884)
    My point was that if I were to spend 400 dollars (which, BTW, is what the Intel Classmate PC costs with much less onboard), why on earth wouldn't I buy a full-fledged laptop?

    400 dollars is still 400 dollars, whether for a scaled down laptop or for a full-blown laptop.

  • Re:Um...ya, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:14PM (#17132126)
    I think it depends on your viewpoint. The OLPC initiative was willing to make a lot changes in the typical configuration of a laptop in order to make their project work. They have a much smaller screen, a different OS than most people in the world use, a non-standard and very small "hard drive" and an unusual wireless configuration.

    On the other hand, I have a full-size external keyboard, an email client, a web browser, the ability to use quite a large number of off the shelf software packages, many of them free or open source, and a full blown SDK available from the OS vendor.

    It may not technically be a laptop, but I'd be interested in hearing your take about the things the make the OLPC more of a laptop than my 8125? After you get past form factor, I think it's going to be kind of hard.

    BTW, can you guess why I wouldn't include a Leapfrog? No open programing support. If you can't write programs for your general-purpose computer, then it's not a general-purpose computer.
  • by arniebuteft ( 1032530 ) <buteft@ g m a i l . com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:12PM (#17135618)
    Well, the goal has to be limited erase-write cycles on the flash memory. Just thinking of a normal operating system, you erase-write on the hard drive most often for a swapfile, temporary internet caching, and document editing. On a CF and fast RAM only laptop, you simply can't have any kind of a swapfile, period. Everything like that has to go into fast RAM. Ditto for caching of internet files. If you knock those two out, I would say that document/file editing isn't going to make too big of a hit. You would only write to the CF drive when actually performing a user-directed SAVE operation, or perhaps for automatic saving. No temp files being written to the CF drive during the editing process. Everything gets chucked into fast RAM. You'd also need to design the filesystem for the CF memory to spread out the write-erase cycles evenly.

    Another alternative would be to use a combination of fast RAM, a main CF storage drive, and a smaller, easily replaceable CF card that acts as a go-between for the fast RAM and the main CF storage drive. The idea would be that you can replace the CF card when it gets burned out after a couple hundred thousand write-erase cycles of doing document caching and perhaps temp internet file caching. Last time I checked, a 512MB flash card was going for under ten bucks, who cares if you replace it once a year?

    Also, as time goes on, flash memory is getting cheaper, more durable, with more write-erase cycles. Having an easily replaceable CF card for caching your editable files and internet crap would be a big bonus in the ease-of-upgrade category. You might reach a point where you CAN use the CF drive as a swapfile, and can cut down on the more expensive fast RAM in future models of the laptop.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel