Hugo Chávez, the combative leader of Venezuela, wants to come out with his own PC that he would then distribute to citizens in the region, according to sources in the PC industry who have been contacted by Venezuelan officials.
The PCs would be part of Chávez's strategy of winning friends in the region through gifts paid for through Venezuela's oil industry. Cuba, Bolivia and other nations have all been recipients of gifts from Chávez. The PCs would likely cost little or could even be given away. Venezuela has been contacting companies in Asia about the project, said sources.
It's not finalized, but an announcement could come later this year. Brazil and other governments have in the past had similar programs, but the programs died after funding trickled away.
A Chávez PC would also be the latest entrant in the market for computers in emerging economies. Intel, Via Technologies, Microsoft, Novatium, N Computing and the One Laptop Per Child organization have all come out with products aimed at bringing cheap computers to classrooms in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The debate over which one will win can sometimes be testing. Earlier this year, Nicholas Negroponte, the man behind the OLPC, accused Intel of trying to sandbag his project. Intel and others, however, have pointed out that the $100 laptop from OLPC actually costs about $175 and is made from nonstandard software and hardware.
I'm sure they will all get along fabulously with Mr. Chávez.
Chávez recently complained about a video game, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, because it takes place in his country. He said it was an attempt to prepare Americans psychologically for an invasion.