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