New Intel Classmate PC convertible tablet pictured

CES — Fresh from the show floor, we have a first look at the next-generation of Intel's Classmate PC, the chip giant's alternative to the OLPC for use in educational settings in developing nations. The new Classmate design is a convertible tablet with a touch-sensitive screen, stylus, and custom software (which runs on top of Windows XP) to enable touch-based input and control.

Like the previous clamshell design, the convertible Classmate is based on the Intel Atom processor, the near-ubiquitous netbook platform. Specifically, the convertible Classmate uses an Atom N270 processor at 1.6GHz and a 945GSE chipset, and Intel claims about 30% longer battery life and 50% higher system performance for the new model. Battery life should be around 3.3 hours for the four-cell battery and 5 hours for the six-cell. The touch-sensitive display measures 8.9" from corner to corner and, like many netbooks, has a 1024x600 resolution. Storage comes in the form of a 60GB, 4,200-RPM Samsung hard drive, and the whole system weighs in at just 2.8 lbs. in the default configuration.

The display automatically flips 180° when you rotate it into tablet mode. However, it doesn't seem to go into portrait mode when the device is held in that orientation—gotta change that manually.

The convertible Classmate feels kid-friendly and tough, with a flexible rubber handle for toting it from place to place and a water-resistant keyboard. As netbook fans, Geoff and I approve of the design—and might be a little bit jealous. Hit the image gallery below for images of the new Classmate.

A number of companies have partnered with Intel to produce customized versions of the convertible Classmate for local regions, including M&A Technology, CTL, and Equus. We don't have word yet on whether they'll be selling to consumers in North America, although Intel and partners seem to be decidedly more open to selling their systems than the OLPC folks have been

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