When news of the Classmate tablet broke yesterday, it was hard to know what to think. In terms of specs, the devices is a far sight better that the Classmate 2.0, but aside from the new tablet form factor, the diminutive netbook didn't seem to include any truly innovative new features. During the Intel Developer Forum today I got to fold around with the new Classmate, and my suspicions were confirmed: barring a late-stage killer feature, this iteration of Intel's OLPC killer will be sort of lame.
Intel had a couple of Classmate 2s set out as well, which looks admittedly dated next to the tablet. The new design takes some queues from popular netbooks like the EeePC and the MSI Wind, with an emphasis on slimness and a forward-sloping keyboard. The case, though still in development, looks more businesslike than its predecessor. There's a new webcam that with vertical tilt capability, and a nifty home button on the screen's bezel that returns the user to the desktop. Speaking of the desktop, the Classmate still runs XP, and Intel has built a simple dashboard with commonly used icons for easy touch access, though using XP's regular functions with your fingers won't be any easier than on other touchscreen tablets. A stylus is included.
The fact that it looks and behaves like a consumer subnotebook is bewildering. Without a dedicated educational OS, multitouch or even kid-friendly looks the Classmate seems to have veered off into overcrowded netbook territory. It seems plenty functional as a compact tablet though, so if the price is right it could well succeed at that. The device is still in development, so at least Intel theoretically has a chance that make this thing interesting.