Intel, OLPC lose to NComputing in the race for India

Lower-cost virtualization -- priced at just $70 per seat -- wins out over laptops in a bid to deliver computer education to 1.8 million schoolchildren in an Indian province.

Undercut on pricing by virtualization vendor NComputing, former partners turned rivals Intel and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) each got edged out this week on a deal to bring computing to 1.8 million schoolchildren in India.

Although it doesn't exactly mesh with an earlier announcement by the Indian government around providing a $10 laptop to each student, NComputing's solution is priced at merely $70 per seat.

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NComputing's virtualization technology is aimed at letting up to seven users -- each equipped with a monitor and other peripherals -- share a single computer simultaneously.

OLPC and Intel -- a company that once sat on OLPC's board of directors -- were among other players considered for the deal announced this week for the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh. But Intel and OLPC have been competing keenly with each other as well as with other vendors targeting emerging nations throughout the world.

In March of this year, OLPC announced plans to distribute its low-cost XO laptops in the small nation of Niue in the Pacific Islands.

Back in 2007, on the other hand, OLPC lost out to Intel in Nigeria and was forced to leave that market when Lancor lodged a lawsuit around an alleged infringement by OLPC of a patent for a multilingual keyboard.

Intel resigned from OLPC's board in January of this year after OLPC chief Nicholas Negroponte reportedly demanded that Intel stop distributing its own Classmate PC in the developing world.

OLPC's XO laptop is currently priced at $188, whereas Intel's Classmate costs $200.

Plans to expand computer education in India were already under way even before D. Purandeswa, an Indian minister for higher education, issued the announcement in July about the $10 laptops.

In an appearance in March at a conference at the United Nations, Lalit Dhingra, president of India's NIIT (National Institute of Information Technology), acknowledged that in some parts of India, particularly very rural areas, education in computer skills wasn't keeping pace with the rest of the nation.

"Electricity is not yet available in some of the distant areas," according to Dhingra. "But soon, all of the schools will have computers."

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