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Cabbages & Kings: Classmate moves out of the paternalistic market


The decision by Intel to "commercialise" its Classmate PC rather than continue to restrict the product to the education and emerging market sectors is to be welcomed (see IT-Online, 3 April).  

Besides the profit motive that comes from expanding the appeal and availability of an extremely practical and imminently user-friendly product into the mainstream market, the decision will help  de-stigmatise the product in the minds of those customers who were originally targeted with the low-cost device.
All too often, as so many companies have learnt to their cost in South Africa and other markets throughout the developing world, when a  particular product in the mainstream is specially redeveloped or adapted to cater for  a niche market that may limited by factors such as affordability or an assumption that the consumer may lack the ability to use the primary product, it tends to create a perception that the intended customer is a "second-class citizen" or an idiot.
While Intel's original motivation for developing Classmate may have been based on many other factors besides affordability and ease-of-use – such  as trying to ensure effective operation in adverse conditions or the need to minimise demand for sophisticated technical support in remote locations – the product itself as well as many other similar developments launched by other vendors smacked of a high degree of  paternalism.
It's interesting to note that Intel seems to have admitted that the commercialisation of Classmate as well as the development of the yet-to-be-launched Netbook range of products was inspired by an IT company in India that appears to have succeeded in building an inspirational and sought-after image for a low-cost PC that may otherwise have been  dismissed as an inferior imitation of the "real thing".
– David Bryant