Intel said on Friday it would support a non-profit foundation's project to put computers in the hands of poor children around the world, reversing its long-standing opposition to the proposal.
The world's biggest chipmaker will join the board of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which developed the XO laptop -- a personal computer that it plans to put into production in September and sell for $176.
Intel markets the Classmate PC, a computer that competes with the foundation's XO laptop.
The two parties said they would be able to incorporate each other's technologies, and would also consider collaborating on developing a laptop.
"We are going to have complementary product lines," said Intel Vice President Will Swope.
Both Intel and the foundation said they had yet to address whether the chipmaker would be able to commercialize the XO's display and power management capabilities, which use what industry analysts widely regard as breakthrough technologies.
The One Laptop Per Child project is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, the former chief of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.
The foundation plans to sell the multimedia laptops to government agencies around the world, requiring each country to buy hundreds of thousands of the devices, then give them to impoverished elementary school children at no cost.
Until now, Intel has criticized the approach, promoting its own Classmate PC, which it distributes in smaller numbers to poor children in developing countries, giving educators instruction in how to use the devices in their classroom.
Negroponte had accused Intel of trying to undermine the project in a string of recent media interviews, including a recent appearance on the CBS news magazine "Sixty Minutes."
The project has been reportedly supported by
News Corp.'s MySpace division, which may develop a special Web community for the school children who get the laptops. Other backers include Intel rival AMD, which makes the microprocessor that runs the XO laptop, and Web search company Google, which is providing e-mail accounts and free back-up services.
Software maker Red Hat Inc. is also on the board.
Microsoft, which is not on the board, is trying to develop a version of Windows that will work on the XO laptop.