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Can an Intel Tablet Win Emerging Markets?

The “StudyBook” may be a tad too pricey.
April 10, 2012

Various outlets are reporting that Intel has plans to follow up its Classmate PC with a tablet computer aimed at emerging markets like China and Brazil. The Register notes that Taiwanese notebook OEM Elitegroup Computer Systems and Chinese manufacturer Malata are poised to produce the tablet, which is expected to be 10 inches and to be available by the second half of 2012.

As is often the case, the rumor was kicked off by DigiTimes, which is well sourced among component makers. DigiTimes says that in addition to the education procurement market, the StudyBook will be aimed at regular retail channels, “priced below US $299.”

Well, one should hope so. In fact, it’s hard to see how the StudyBook would compete without going well below $299. We are already accustomed to lower-end tablets running $199 or less (thank you, Amazon; thank you, Barnes and Noble). Granted, the StudyBook will be a 10-inch rather than a 7-inch device, and Intel clearly has something in mind with more processing power and versatility than the Nook or Kindle Fire. But still, an iPad it is not.

And indeed, some folks are more struck by what the StudyBook isn’t, than what it is. “No iPad 2 Rival,” runs ITProPortal’s headline. The author also takes a stab at what he thinks will likely be the StudyBook’s dual operating system: he thinks that Windows 8 is unlikely; rather, we’ll probably see Intel but together a “Linux distro like Android or Ubuntu” together with Intel’s own Tizen OS. Tizen is an intriguing open-source mobile OS that I don’t get to write about too often; in late February, the Chinese handset maker Huawei decided to use Tizen for some handsets; CNET termed it a “relatively obscure OS.” (Huawei works with other OS’s as well.)

The StudyBook tablet is also expected to run on Intel’s Medfield chip, per DigiTimes. Medfield (more details here), is one of several chips Intel is reportedly working on to help it win the Chinese market for phones and tablets, according to a report Monday in PCWorld. “Our strategy in China now is to win with smartphones and tablets. We are making progress on it!” Intel China chairman Sean Maloney said in a chat on a Chinese social networking site. Intel will hold an annual developers’ forum in China this week, demoing the Medfield chip there.

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