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'$100 laptop' sparks war of words

Chip-maker Intel "should be ashamed of itself" for efforts to undermine the $100 laptop initiative, according to its founder Nicholas Negroponte.

He accused Intel of selling its own cut-price laptop - the Classmate - below cost to drive him out of markets. Professor Negroponte, who aims to distribute millions of laptops to kids in developing countries, said Intel had hurt his mission "enormously". Speaking to US broadcaster CBS, Intel's chairman denied the claims. "We're not trying to drive him out of business," said Craig Barrett. "We're trying to bring capability to young people." Mr Barrett has previously dismissed the $100 laptop as a "gadget". Speaking to the BBC News website earlier this year Professor Negroponte said: "The concept has received a lot of criticism and yet after that criticism they are either copying it or doing things perfectly in line with the concept. "Yes people laugh at it, then they criticise it, then they copy it."

Business practice

Both Intel and Professor Negroponte's not for profit organisation, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), have developed a low cost, robust laptop aimed specifically at school children in the developing world. There are various differences in both the hardware and software, but Professor Negroponte believes the main problem is that his machine uses a processor designed by Intel's main competitor, AMD. "Intel and AMD fight viciously," he told CBS. "We're just sort of caught in the middle." Professor Negroponte says Intel has distributed marketing literature to governments with titles such as "the shortcomings of the One Laptop per Child approach", which outline the supposedly stronger points of the Classmate. Mr Barrett told CBS: "Someone at Intel was comparing the Classmate PC with another device being offered in the marketplace. That's the way our business works." He dismissed claims that Intel was trying to put OLPC out of business as "crazy". "There are lots of opportunities for us to work together," he said.

Price drop

Professor Negroponte's project is currently in a critical phase. Countries have until 31 May to place their orders for the first batch and will be able to purchase lots of 250,000. They will initially cost $176 (£90) but the eventual aim is to sell the machine to governments of developing countries for $100 (£50). Intel says it already has orders for "thousands" of Classmates, which currently cost over $200 (£100). Like the OLPC machine, Intel expects the price to eventually fall.