Pity the Poor Classmate PC'd Children of Portugal

olpc classmate
Classmate ain't the XO laptop

This morning, AP bring us news that Portugal pledged 500,000 Classmate PC's for elementary school students, the largest order for Intel's 4P Computing offering to date.

Sadly, I think this is an epic error on the part of the Government of Portugal, for three reasons:

The Classmate PC is a dog improving (see updates in comments)

As much as I love Intel's long-term commitment to a comprehensive relationship between teachers, students, schools and technology through their multi-year, multi-million dollar Intel Teach Program, their hardware response to the XO laptop is lacking.

As we've said before, $5 Billion in Intel R&D and we get the Classmate PC?

Now besides the short battery life, and classless knock-off looks, the reports from USA deployments do not impress. Nor does Uruguay's open bid results: the XO laptop was the clear winner.

The software "choice" is false

If you read the AP article, you may think that this Portugal tender as a proxy for the larger Foss vs. Microsoft battle for 4PC dominance:

sugar on classmate pc
Clasmmate PC - Sugarized!
Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan said parents of young school children will be able to choose between computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and ones with an open-source Linux operating system
Yet, unless the Portuguese run Sugar on Classmates, the choice is false. Both of the suggested Classmate OS's are about office productivity software, not educational exploration, and have no place in schools.

The shocking loss of autonomy

Worst of all, in my humble opinion, is the subtle announcement that Portugal has just give up all autonomy to make objective technology decisions:

As part of its biggest deal for the Classmate PC to date, Intel said it will serve as technology adviser to Portugal's Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communications, which is coordinating the laptop program.
Combine that complete outsourcing of computer systems evaluation with silence on the financial terms of the deal and I'm thinking there is a deal in the works - cheap Classmates now for lucrative future government orders.

Shady deals being a hallmark of Classmate sales to date.

Related Entries


Interesting. It looks like Portugal realized the original Classmate for the dog that it is. Look at the upgrade they're getting soon:

The first round of the Classmate PC laptops for Portugal will use Intel's older Celeron processor before switching to a new batch manufactured with the newer Atom chip, said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of the Intel's Emerging Markets Platform Group.

The newer Classmate PC design also allows for a number of extras that were unavailable in the older designs, such as hard disk drives with a 30GB capacity. Other features include more RAM—512MB compared with the previous 256MB in the older models—and it will support Microsoft Windows, as well as the Metasys and Ubuntu Linux operating systems.

The Classmate also now offers a 9-inch display, compared with the older 7-inch display model.


I think is a good thing -> More competition == BETTER


Considering that these machines are for educational use and are sure to be dropped, I really don't see how including a hd is a plus.


But was this really the outcome of open competition, or did it happen because Intel used trickery, political influence, and perhaps bribes?

Along these lines, it would be really nice if some well-qualified organization did a comparison of pc versus xo as in action in the classrooms where they are being used.


I agree, HD isn't the best, but at least there is a general upgrade from the Classmate 1.

And I am very, very concerned about the lack of clarity around this whole agreement. I just spoke with a reporter from Portugal and he confirmed my suspicion - there wasn't an open competition. Portugal just up and announced the Intel partnership. Both educational and government advisory.

The two together with such secrecy should produce a great public concern in Portugal.

This PC was not chosen because of bribery from Intel and it was not chosen by the government at all, it was chosen by a Portuguese company called JP Sá Couto that will assembly the computers in Portugal (creating lots of jobs there). When the government heard they were planning to sell this computers they asked JP Sá Couto if they could join the program and subsidized the computers to give them (or pay a maximum of 50€) to all the children from the first 4 grades of school - of course JP Sá Couto gladly acepted the offer because they don't have to promote it to sell thousands.
And it will run Linux (it already did during the presentation), Caixa Mágica a portuguese disto of linux.
Moral of this story: before falsely accusing your competitors try to research a little bit, it won't hurt and your site will be a more reliable source of news.


OLPC News is amazing because of contributions like yours. None of us would have known about this backstory without your help and input. Your comments prove what we suggested earlier, and Negroponte dismissed as irrelevant:

Local assembly jobs matter. And OLPC's China-only production is a detriment, regardless of price: http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/production/local_olpc_assembly_justification.html

I am not sure anymore if the Classmate deal is worse than the XO for developed countries like Portugal.

A couple of points:

- The Classmate will be available to anyone with at least 1 year of guarantee and will have spare parts afterwards. I still can't buy a replacement keyboard for my sticky-key-ridden XO and apart from the G1G1 I couldn't buy a factory-new XO.

- The Classmate will cost less than the G1G1 price (400USD) for which you can buy an XO. Never mind what Negroponte says about XO production costs, nobody can buy it for that price (~USD 180) so it is irrelevant.

- The new, 9inch classmate screen cannot be used for ebook-mode but is much bigger than the XO screen (7.5inch). PDF-s and other content will be easier to read. Likely, you won't be able to use it in sunlight but in developed schools you sit in a room not in sunlight.

- Due to the 512Mb RAM, Ubuntu will be easy to install&use (even Edubuntu for kids) and will likely support suspend & hibernate. The stock Intel chipsets are very well supported by Linux and Ubuntu has special support for the Atom processor and chipset (see Ubuntu Netbook Remix). The Atom processor beats the hell out of the Geode any time so Ubuntu will likely provide a better user experience on the classmate than on the current XO.

- We don't have too sophisticated power management for the XO currently, so hard to compare them fairly. Even though the Classmate will have a short battery life, currently my XO drains its battery even if it is completely shut down (EC power consumption still not fixed). Currently, I have to remove the battery of the XO if I don't want to get it completely drained in max a week. So: if the classmate can correctly suspend and hibernate like a normal laptop, it may be easier to use than the current XO even with 2 hours of battery runtime.

- The mesh network of the XO is nice but from a practical 1st word point of view:
1)at home, it is illegal to share your internet connection with others and in Europe you may get prosecuted for it.
2) In a school which runs a laptop program, the correct AP coverage makes it unnecessary anyway. Every XO can connect to simply an Access Point.

So unfortunately, the advantages of the XO over the are growing very thin if not negative at this time.

1)at home, it is illegal to share your internet connection with others and in Europe you may get prosecuted for it.

see: http://web2.justiz.hessen.de/migration/rechtsp.nsf/491DC84480D45962C12574810037C35A/$file/11u05207.pdf

(sorry it's in german. the basic idea is, no it is not illegal)

1)at home, it is illegal to share your internet connection with others and in Europe you may get prosecuted for it.

oh and by the way. sharing an internet connection cannot and will never be illegal. it is however often thought to be illegal when someone makes an unlicensed copy of a work.

And the Classmate 3 gets better by the day. It seems that Portugal's Classmate will have Atom processors running at 1.6Ghz and 1GB of RAM.


I may just have to reverse my opinion on Intel's 4PC hardware game.


"When the government heard they were planning to sell this computers they asked JP Sá Couto if they could join the program and subsidized the computers to give them (or pay a maximum of 50€) to all the children from the first 4 grades of school"

what has been reported is that in fact the maximum cost of 50€, however, was also said this program has the support of Portuguese mobile operators and everything indicates that work equal to the "escola"(e-school) program, if so the initial value of 50€ must be added the cost of Internet connection with binding contract of 36 months, when the figures presented in the "e-escola" will be 17.30€ /month, or 622.80 €!
beyond this little "detail" I must mention the following:
- has been reported that the laptop is 100% Portuguese, which is not true!
- speaking in the exportation of the "100% Portuguese laptop" when this is a Intel product. under what conditions it will be "exported"?
- was reported as being the "global launch"!
- although this programme create new jobs in Portugal, also creates unemployment, since the laptop market of free selling have suffered a huge decline with the "e-escola"
- this program clearly will favor a private company, JP Sá Couto, and it will damage all other companies in the informatics distribuition sector in Portugal.



In your post you make no mention of the government evaluating the educational merits of the two competing computers. So may we assume that the decision was made entirely for commercial and financial reasons?

The company that will assemble the Magalhães classmate computers is JP Sá Couto, who did a huge favour to Microsoft by joining (without any discernible motive) the portuguese ISO technical committee 173 and blindly vote in favour of Microsoft OOXML.

Recently they also had a partnership with Microsoft.

Vote in favour of OOXML and suddenly you get lot's of interesting deals...

Or maybe it's just a coincidence...

Seriously, talk about sour grapes!

Put a decent sized keyboard on your machine, put OS X on it, and put it on the market with a Buy 2 get 1 (and donate 1 to charity) deal, and walk the talk, and get over it!

You can by 40 foot long shipping containers of 2nd hand ex-lease laptops from IBM, HP, Compaq, DELL and other OEM's for around AUD$15 per PC, so spending money on re-inventing the wheel is just dumb for my money.

99% of the people you're trying to sell your OLPC into have fingers too fat to type on your laptop ;-)

Make it in lollypop colors, and some of us will buy more than one just for the color of the things.

But seriously, get over the sour grapes.. and get on with delivering on your original promise, please.


Stop the presses!

In one of the most baffling news about 4P computing in recent times, Venezuela will be buying a million Classmates from Portugal but with Linux as OS. It's on Ars Technica.

Although the supporters of the "Magalhães" (the Portuguese Classmate, named after the dude who almost sailed around the world, aka Magellan) keep throwing sand in the air by saying that it is based on the Classmate-2 and that it will use the Aton processor, the sad fact is that it is based on the Classmate-1 and uses a Celeron@900MHz. It is now being "sold"/"given" for €50/€20/€0 (according to the families' revenue) to all children aged 6-10. Why on Earth do they need Microsoft Office is anyone's guess. Just to clarify the issue, there is no broad-band mobile Internet connection attached to the business (or at least it is not mandatory).
Regarding the Venezuelan deal, it seems either Hugo Chávez is looking for a safe haven in Portugal in case things go wrong in Venezuela, or José Sócrates (Portuguese PM) is looking for a safe haven in Venezuela, just in case.

@Pedro Palma,

It is a package deal. Portugal supplies a lot more:

"The agreements cover housing, utility infrastructure and energy cooperation."


I read somewhere that the laptops were delivered with Linux, but have no link.


I've never heard that the "Magalhães" was 100% Portuguese, that's none sense, never happened ! It was said that it was the first step to create in a near future computers 100% designed and manufactured in Portugal EXCEPT the processor.
Some people are forgetting the agreements with a major hardware manufacturer that will build some research and production facilities in Portugal making possible to create an 100% made in Portugal computer, except the processor like i said before.
People are not obligated to buy them ! I think that it will be good for small kids and i only regret the MS stuff inside ! My kid will have one and i will teach him to use Linux as soon as i can but i also teach him to use MS XP... Freedom of choice is what i want for all computers an not only for Netbooks.

Mr. Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla, you must have some kind of political problem and i recommend you to solve them first and them come discuss this theme more clearly.
My son will have MS Office and OpenOffice... you don't need to be so alarmed since my 9 year old kid already speaks two languages ( Portuguese and English ) and already knows how to go to the internet and use the basic tools....