AMD's PC in a pinch

GCN Insider | Trends and technologies that affect the way government does IT

Over lunch, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s chief innovation officer tells us that there are more than 100,000 of the company's Personal Information Communicators deployed around the world. The PIC, as Billy Edwards describes it, is the current centerpiece of AMD's 50 x 15 initiative'a goal of getting computers to 50 percent of the world's population by the year 2015 (50x15.amd.com). Computing labs in Brazil, India, South Africa and other countries have already been outfitted with PICs, which are the size of an old-fashioned broadband modem and contain an AMD Geode GX processor, hard drive, Windows operating system, VGA port, external power supply and more'for under $200.

But here's something Edwards and other AMD executives are learning quickly, and it's not incompatible with the 50 x 15 project: The PIC form factor has application in government deployments. Think disaster response or military deployments. After last year's Hurricane Katrina, AMD PIC systems were deployed at computing centers in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, Texas, as well as Denver.

Because of its form factor, PIC systems make sense for rapid deployment. And because they're smaller and lighter than traditional CPUs, they cost less to transport. Of course, you still need monitors to actually see data, but Edwards says there are companies doing display research in an effort to build cheaper, more flexible alternatives.

It's worth noting that even as it continues development on the PIC, AMD is involved with the One Laptop per Child project at the MIT Media Lab. MIT is working to build AMD- and Linux-based notebooks for under $100. While some have been skeptical, Edwards isn't one of them.

'It's definitely going to happen,' he said.

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