Internet cafes: The new Intel labs

Tech Culture

Running an Internet cafe-- the ubiquitous, PC-filled rooms of Asia-- isn't easy. There's a group of teenagers in one corner playing Ragnarok while people on the other side of the room are downloading buggy software. Plus, you have to serve up three tapioca drinks and wipe up a spill near the kitchen. Closing time is around 2009, give or take a few months.

"Some have more than 300 computers," said Minerva Yeung a project manager at Intel China. Updating software "can takes weeks in some I-cafes," she added

To this end, Intel has come up with what it calls the Platform Administration Technology (PAT), a collection of software, firmware and hardware that allows a harried cafe owner to remotely monitor and control the PCs in his or her domain. It also simplifies the process of bringing a PC onto the network. The technology was rolled out in China recently, but will likely voyage to other nations.

The project is one of the first out of the Channel Group, one of the five major divisions at Intel. The group is chartered to develop technology for emerging markets and is based in Shanghai, the only major Intel group based outside the states.

Does the technology make it easier for the government to enforce censorship? Not directly, but yes. It doesn't let administrators block access to web sites. However, Yeung said that cafe owners can download other tools to block site access, which presumably could be controlled by PAT.

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