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Intel opens Net cafes in China

Chipmaker teams up with Tom Online for 13 venues aimed at promoting a "positive image" of the trendy spots.

Intel and Chinese wireless Internet company Tom Online on Tuesday announced a partnership to "promote a positive image" of China's Internet cafes.

The two companies are opening 13 venues, each to be called the Intel i-Cafe Music Studio. The first opened Saturday in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou in Henan.

The cafes will be equipped with Intel's digital home entertainment technologies, where budding musicians can publish their songs directly to the Web via Tom Online's music platform, called Wanleba. Fans can then download the songs to their laptops, mobile phones and other wireless gadgets, Tom Online said.

The idea is to let singers and songwriters share their music with Tom Online's target demographic--the young and trendy--as well as make the cafes an "exciting and wholesome gathering place for everyone," said Yit Loong Lai, general manager at Intel China.

China recently has taken several steps to clean up its "fledgling and troublesome" cafe business, where poor operating conditions have led to major problems, according to Xinhua, China's central news agency.

Nearly all of China's 110,000 Internet cafes will be consolidated under the management of larger, mainly state-owned companies in the next three years, according to an October report.

The government is concerned about the sudden popularity of such cafes, which are gathering places for online gamers and those seeking Web information outside of official sources, in a country where many still cannot afford PCs or Internet access.

A fire set by an arsonist in June of last year killed 25 in an unlicensed Internet cafe. The resulting crackdown on unlicensed premises has halved the number of outlets in the country. Since then, the Chinese government has also stopped issuing new licenses.

Companies said to be getting into the business are mainly state-owned. They include telecom providers such as China Unicom, Great Wall Broadband Network and China Netcom.

China is also trying to crack down on an by opening up new addiction clinics and putting three- to five-hour .

Approximately 13.2 percent of Chinese youths and young adults are addicted to the Internet, according to the China Daily newspaper, citing a study by a group associated with the Communist Youth League of China.

Intel is also using of sorts. The company's Channel Group rolled out Intel's Platform Administration Technology, 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. The technology has already been launched in China but will likely voyage to other countries.

The Intel i-Cafe Music Studio project is part of the "Intel iCafe Community Day" program, launched by the company to promote computer literacy. Similar charity programs have taken place since September in Chinese cities such as Xi'an and Changchun.