Intel has launched a new version of its Classmate PC, a learning laptop for kids. The new design is more flexible and durable than past Intel computers that promote electronic learning.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel unveiled the design at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. With the Classmate PC, Intel designs the hardware, software and chips for the system and provides a reference design for local computer makers in a variety of countries. Those PC makers offer the low-cost machines to schools and governments.

The Classmate PC is a clamshell (opens and closes like a clam) and can be converted into a touchscreen tablet computer. It has the Intel Atom processor and a 10.1-inch liquid crystal display; the new model has more memory and storage to run education applications. It has up to 8.5 hours of battery life and can connect via Wi-Fi, 3G and WiMAX, and has integrated global positioning system (GPS) navigation.

“Our ethnographers have spent countless hours understanding how technology can help school age children here in the U.S. and around the world build the skills required for the future,” said Kapil Wadhera, acting general manager of Intel’s Emerging Markets Platform Group, which helped design the computer.

The user interface is optimized for e-book applications and has a water-resistant keyboard, touchpad and screen. It can withstand being dropped from a desk and has an optional anti-microbial keyboard. In tablet mode, the “palm rejection” feature ignores the touch of hands resting on the screen.

More than 300 vendors are supporting the system worldwide. The machine typically costs a few hundred dollars and is available around the globe as a way kids to get on the Internet in the classroom in a safe way. Intel said that more than 2 million Classmate PCs have been deployed in 60 countries since the program began in 2007.

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