Trying to increase demand for personal computers in India and other emerging markets, Intel Corp. plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years to promote the use of computers in schools, cafes and other public spots in developing countries.
The initiative, which Chief Executive Paul Otellini plans to outline on Wednesday, builds on a three-pronged strategy of increasing the availability of low-cost PCs, making it easier to access the Internet and getting more computers into the classrooms in the poorest countries.
The world's biggest chip maker has for years sought to increase demand for its products by seeding new uses and users of PCs and other electronic devices. In 1996, when the Internet was largely the domain of hobbyists and researchers, then-CEO Andy Grove predicted an era when more than 1 billion devices would be connected.
"It turns out we're not quite there yet, but we'll be there next year," Otellini said in an interview. "That next billion of people are going to be in an economic strata that today doesn't have access to the PC."
Speaking at the World Congress on Information Technology in Austin, Texas, Otellini plans to demonstrate a mobile PC designed for classrooms that sells for less than $400. It will run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or the free Linux operating system and offer standard features, including wireless Internet capabilities.
Santa Clara-based Intel, which doesn't plan to sell the device, designed the machine as a blueprint for its computer-maker customers.
A number of high-tech companies, including Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and software-maker Microsoft Corp., have announced initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide between developed and developing nations.
Intel's initiative, dubbed the World Ahead Program, is also aimed at helping more teachers throughout the world include computers and the Internet in their lesson plans. The chip maker is vowing to give schools 100,000 PCs and provide training to 10 million teachers over the next five years.
Over the past seven years, Intel has already trained 3 million teachers in more than 35 countries, Otellini said.
Intel is also trying to make it easier for people in developing countries to connect to the Internet. Intel Capital, the company's venture capital arm, will continue to fund Internet access providers and entrepreneurs in low-income regions.
Otellini said the company will focus on a type of connection known as WiMAX, which delivers wireless access over long distances and is well suited for remote villages that don't have an established infrastructure of power lines or telephone poles.
Developing countries made up about 38 percent of the world's PC sales in 2005, Anand Chandrasekher, a senior vice president in charge of sales and marketing, told analysts last week. He forecast low-income countries to account for about 47 percent by 2009.