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AMD, the world’s second largest maker of PC microprocessors, is preparing to roll-out a reference design of a computer that will serve for people in emerging markets and cannot afford even entry-level computers.

AMD Packs PDA Specs into Desktop Form-Factor

The Personal Internet Communicator (PIC) initiative proposed by AMD and code-named Emma is based on AMD Geode GX500 366MHz processor that consumes about 1W of power, equipped with 128MB of memory, 10GB HDD, 4xUSB, 56K Modem and integrated audio, according to AMDBoard.com web-site. The machine runs a special version of Microsoft Windows CE with XP extender for Windows XP applications compatibility and is also bundled with Internet Explorer, Messenger, Spreadsheet and some other software. AMD wants such computers to sell for $185 with keyboard, but with no display, or, with keyboard and display, for $249.

AMD’s PIC will allow customers to type texts, browse the Internet, use email, listen to music, watch multimedia files, view various presentations and perform some other simple tasks.

AMD will not make or sell the PIC. Instead, it will sell licenses to make such computers along with certain components. The first maker of the PIC is Solectron, a contract manufacturer.

Ambitious Plans Amid Unclear Market Prospects

At the 2004 World Economic Forum in Davos AMD’s CEO Hector Ruiz announced AMD’s ambitious 50x15 initiative, a promise to enable 50% of the world’s population with computers and the Internet by the year 2015. Currently, it is believed, only 10% of the world’s population have access to computers and the Internet. Latin America and Asia are currently the fastest growing markets for computer technologies.

While target markets for the PIC – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia – may applaud AMD’s move to offer very affordable computer model, it is known that all those markets currently consume more low-end processors and other components from the world’s leading makers, such as AMD and Intel. Typically even low-end PCs work faster than AMD’s Personal Internet Communicator is likely to and also provide a number of advanced options, such as integrated Ethernet that allows to use broadband Internet access, and some others. Usually end-users in countries like Brazil or Russia use pirated software, including operating systems, which allows them to save around $100 - $300 per PC. Therefore, market reaction on AMD’s PIC is unclear.

Intel Targets Emerging Markets with ‘Centrino’-like Architecture

Intel Corp. may also target low-cost low-power systems with its processor code-named Shelton, according to reports from Asian press. The new chip is said to be based on Intel Pentium M architecture and aim at all possible market segments demanding low-cost personal computers, including embedded systems, low-power systems and other.

Intel Shelton processor is made using Intel’s 130nm process technology and is based on the Intel Pentium M “Banias” architecture. The chip does not have L2 cache, unlike the majority of today’s central processing units, and works at a core-clock in the range on 1.00GHz, sources said. While the product cannot boast with really high performance compared to typical desktop central processing units, the chip is reportedly still faster compared to rivalling VIA C3 products.

Intel Corp. has apparently also developed a special platform for the new chip. According to the report, the mainboard for the Shelton is based on the i845GV core-logic and comes in micro-ITX form-factor. Intel Shelton chip is an embedded processor, which means it cannot be replaced from the mainboard, not allowing system makers or end-users to upgrade or downgrade it.

The D845GVSH mainboard reportedly promoted by Intel for the Shelton chip is based on i845GV and ICH4 chips, offers 1 Parallel ATA-33/66/100 channel, PCI slot, 1 DDR SDRAM DIMM slot and 1 FDD connector. The mainboard sports on-board audio, video and network controllers.

Unlike AMD Intel Corp. does not promote any special platforms for the Shelton-based computers and does not offer any special operating systems. However, Intel does not reportedly charge for the license as well.

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