If you are a PC maker you have to be scared to death of the gains Apple is making in the tablet market and to make matters worse, any day now an Android tablet may be released which sells in the tens of millions of units. And if you supply processors to these devices like Intel does, you have to be scared as well since Apple is not only designing ARM-based CPUs for its tablets and phones, they are getting more powerful and may one day find their way into Macs.
So borrowing a page from Apple in the eighties, Lenovo and Intel have teamed up to get education-centric laptops into the hands of students quickly - before the Apple disease further hurts either company.
The result is the Lenovo Classmate+ PC which you can read about in an article on TMCnet's Education Technology site.
After spending some time on the Intel Education website I am a bit surprised as to how this approach to education is different from the Apple brand most of us think about in our heads.
For example, here is a statement from the site touting the benefits of the Learning Series:
Education specific, research based
Our team of ethnographers conducts observational research to understand how kids naturally learn, what PC features will support intuitive use, and how teachers can best introduce technology into the classroom. This research informs the design and development of Intel Learning Series products.
Here is my uneducated view of the world - after all I never even heard the word ethnographer until today and apparently this is a profession. I bet they even have their own conference. I have to get out more. Seriously.
Back to my view - make a computer which is easy to use and fun and kids will use it to learn. Even the people who run the schools understand this concept.
It is still mind-boggling that the PC industry is stuck in the same rut of making machines people have to reluctantly use. I mean, none of these people use iPhones or iPads. Its really unbelievable.
I was literally ridiculed when I took my new Dell laptop out at a meeting two weeks ago. The CEO I spoke with ran to his office to bring his MacBook for comparison reasons. He was apparently sizing me up to see if he could bring to tears of embarrassment.
Intel also posts a PDF comparing these computers to typical netbooks and touts features like enhanced drop testing as a reason to go with its design. Meanwhile Apple builds its phones out of glass. Steve Jobs can't get enough of it. He was actually in a meeting where he said (I am guessing but would bet it went a lot like this) - Hey, I love this glass stuff... Let's put it on the back of the phone as well. And just like that the iPhone 4 was born.
Point is - and I realize why schools would want durable designs, but consumers are giving up durability by the million in exchange for design. Heck, the iPad 2 feels like it might break if I give it a dirty look. I just mentioned this week that its new minimalist case is so minimal, I feel like I am carrying a priceless vase.
There are two approaches in tech as I see it - the minimalist, clean look or the dead.