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Classmate PC coming to U.S., European retailers

Intel's low-cost laptop, which follows entries from OLPC and Asus, will sell for $250 to $350, according to a Reuters report.

More low-cost laptops are headed to a retailer near you.

Intel plans on expanding the distribution of its inexpensive, school children-friendly Classmate PC to U.S. and European retail outlets, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday.

Classmate PC
Intel's Classmate PC Intel

The Classmate will sell for $250 to $350, Lila Ibrahim, general manager of Intel's emerging market platform group, told Reuters. Apparently Intel has already been conducting pilot programs using the devices in classrooms in the U.S. and Australia.

Though the Classmate is already available on the retail markets of India, Mexico, and Indonesia, this will be the first time the device has been for sale to consumers in the developed world.

Intel designed the PC for use in schools in developing nations. Local manufacturers build them with customized software configurations for the needs of specific local markets.

The XO from the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which also builds low-cost notebooks for the same markets, has been available via retail in the U.S. for a while. OLPC had a promotion where consumers here paid $400, which bought one XO for them and one for a school kid in the developing world.

But they're not the only ones jumping into this fray. Asus launched its low-cost, stripped-down Linux-based Eee PC last fall specifically for the U.S., Japanese, and European retail markets, and caused quite the stir. It sold 350,000 units in the first quarter it was available here, and is making some of the biggest names in computing a wee bit nervous. It's giving pause to worldwide PC leader Hewlett-Packard, and second-largest notebook manufacturer Acer, both of whom are said to be readying their own low-cost, small form-factor laptops for sometime this year.

The Eee PC certainly is bringing cachet to the tiny, Linux-based laptop segment, but will that translate to the cheaper Classmate PC? The Classmate is a bit clunkier looking, and has a silly-looking (though great for kids) handle on the spine, whereas the Eee comes in a variety of colors and looks like a laptop an adult wouldn't mind being seen with at his or her local coffeehouse.