Linux-based tablet PC breaks the $1,000 price barrier

With the launch of Microsoft Corp.’s Tablet PC operating system in 2002, tablet computing devices have soared in popularlity. But the technology’s high price point has kept most schools from being able to afford such devices–until now.

Element Computer, a Staten Island, N.Y.-based manufacturer, has introduced a tablet PC device that runs on a Linux-based platform and costs only $999. The Helium 2100 has a 2-in-1 convertible design that transforms it from a laptop to a tablet PC. It runs on the new Desktop/LX Tablet Edition OS from Lycoris with a 1-gigahertz Antaur processor from Via Technologies. The Desktop/LX operating system reportedly is compatible with all printers, digital cameras, and components, so customers can feel as confident purchasing from Element Computer as they would from an all-Windows PC vendor, the company said.

“Being able to offer a tablet PC that people can afford is finally possible, and we are determined to bring devices like this to the masses,” said Mike Hjorleiffsson, president and founder of Element Computer.

The Helium 2100 features a 14.1-inch, touch-panel XGA active matrix display, 256 megabytes of installed memory (expandable to 1 gigabyte), 30 gigabytes of installed hard drive space (expandable to 80 GB), a wireless option, and up to three hours of battery life. (718) 247-4263 http://www.elementcomputer.com

Microsoft Encarta Premium is a top-notch learning tool

Microsoft’s new MSN Encarta Premium, based on the company’s encyclopedia brand, is a learning and research tool that combines the functionality of Encarta Reference Library 2004 and the internet. Its built-in Homework Center provides students with step-by-step writing guides, literature guides, an archive of top periodicals, a collection of web site links, and an interactive math tutorial feature called MathHelp.

Powered by Design Science MathPlayer technology, MathHelp gives students step-by-step guidance with problems in commonly used textbooks. Students select a textbook, navigate to a specific problem, and review detailed explanations by expert mathematicians on how to solve it.

Encarta Premium is a stand-alone subscription service available only in the United States and Japan that costs $4.95 a month or $29.95 a year. As of Jan. 8, it also became available as a feature in Microsoft’s newest subscription service, MSN Premium.

(800) 386-5550 http://www.encarta.msn.com

Latest version of NetOp School offers more functionality

CrossTec Corp.’s NetOp School software is known for its ability to give teachers thumbnail images or full-screen views of each student’s PC to make sure students stay on task during class time. The latest version, NetOp School 3.0, now lets teachers disable student access to all programs and web site URLs except those authorized by the instructor. This new version also has the ability to record a teacher’s lessons for playback later. The DVD-like playback controls include start, pause, stop, next, skip, and zoom. In addition, the new version boasts a tool teachers can use to create interactive lesson plans that include links to demo screens, URLs, multimedia files, and more.

“NetOp School was first developed in the mid-’90s to enable a teacher to take full control of a student’s PC, mouse, and keyboard,” said Robert Rounsavall, product manager for NetOp School. “With NetOp School 3.0, it’s now easier than ever for teachers to effectively demonstrate their teaching materials, control how students interact with those resources, and monitor their progress.”

NetOp School 3.0 starts at less than $650 per classroom. A free evaluation copy is available from the CrossTec web site.

(800) 675-0729 http://www.crossteccorp.com

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