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AMD cans low-cost PC project

The chipmaker's Personal Internet Communicator, an inexpensive PC designed for the developing world, is no more.

Advanced Micro Devices has pulled the plug on its Personal Internet Communicator, once envisioned as a low-cost computer for the developing world.

The PIC was introduced in 2004 as part of AMD's 50x15 project, in which the company has pledged to help bring Internet access to half the world's population by 2015. The device cost $185 and came with one of AMD's Geode processors.

But sales of the product never made an impact on AMD's bottom line, and the chipmaker has stopped manufacturing it, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

Simply put, there was little interest in the PIC. It was designed for emerging markets like India. But M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda, the highest-ranking IT official in the Indian state of Karnataka, where the high-tech city of Bangalore is located, said he had never heard of it in an interview in spring 2005. And during the World Congress on Information Technology in May of this year, AMD gave away a PIC to every attendee, but many unclaimed boxes remained a few days into the show.

The PIC suffered the same problems that flops like the Simputer and other non-PC alternatives suffered. It had a slow processor and didn't come with a display, and it wasn't exactly cheap.

But plenty of companies and organizations are still interested in bringing PCs to the developing world--not just for altruistic reasons, but to get in early with the next group of computer buyers. Intel has its own low-cost laptop design for students, Microsoft wants to hook people up to the Internet through their cell phones, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nicholas Negroponte are hawking the One Laptop Per Child initiative. AMD's Geode processors are being used in the One Laptop Per Child design.

CNET's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.