Intel launches ‘car battery PC’ for rural India

Heat, dust and power outages are all catered for in the chipmaker's rugged offering. John Ribeiro reports

Intel has launched a low-power, rugged PC platform that has been developed to work in rural India’s extreme conditions.

The new platform, called the Community PC platform, includes a Celeron Mobile processor, management software and a specially designed motherboard, says Joydeep Bose, managing director of the Intel India’s emerging markets platform group.

PC vendors in India, including HCL and Wipro, will be making products around the Community PC platform, according to Bose. The pricing of the products will be decided by the PC vendors, he says.

The Community PC’s chassis has been designed to withstand dusty conditions, varying temperatures and high humidity, Intel says. It has a removable dust filter and integrated air fan to regulate the motherboard’s temperature.

Intel announced last year that its Platform Definition Centre in Bangalore was working on a Community PC platform and testing it in Indian villages. The product would be the first of several designed for the rural market, the company said at the time.

The Community PC is equipped with a power supply unit that lets it run off of a car battery during power outages, which are common in rural India. Intel will be releasing the Community PC’s product definition and interfaces to peripherals makers so that they can develop products that consume less power, Bose says.

Several multinational companies, including Microsoft, have announced initiatives to bring IT and internet services to India’s rural masses, who account for about 70% of the country’s population.

Intel and Microsoft also recently announced an “affordability alliance” aimed at bridging the Indian digital divide by offering low-cost personal computers.

Intel has also announced a programme, called Jagruti, to provide India’s rural communities with greater economic and social opportunities through community kiosks set up in collaboration with businesses, government and providers of internet and online services.

“We are trying to create an ecosystem that will deliver services to rural India and we already have about 30 partners, including NGOs, application developers and content providers,” Bose says.

NGOs and vendors have long advocated community devices such as internet kiosks for rural India. The devices would be owned by the community, or run for the community, by a service provider.

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