Intel showed off two notebooks based on its low-cost reference design today at its Developer Forum in Taipei. The PCs are aimed at poor countries as part of a five-year $1bn (about £535m) global initiative designed to ensure nobody is left behind in the digital age.

The latest reference design is aimed at Taiwan, which is an emerging but by no means poor economy. The device is orange, comes with a shoulder strap and is meant for school-age children.

Earlier this year, Intel showed off the first model based on its low-cost reference design. The computer, in the company's signature blue, is aimed at India, Africa, Brazil and other areas. It's already being used as part of a pilot programme in a school in Nigeria, and coincides with the company's WiMax initiative for wireless broadband.

"How do you connect the next billion people to the internet? Not with fibre, not with wires – it's going to be WiMax," said John Antone, Intel's sales and marketing manager for Asia.

A number of developing countries have found that building wireless networks is much easier than digging trenches for wire lines, or hanging them on poles. Mobile phones are one example. In China, people with mobile phones already outnumber those with landlines.

The low-cost laptop design is part of Intel's World Ahead Program, which aims to create affordable hardware, train teachers so they can educate their students, and build wireless internet capability in developing and emerging countries.

The initiative appears to compete with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project, which is led by Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC and co-founder of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Laboratory. The project has developed a prototype for a $100 (£54) laptop for use by students in developing countries.

The goal is to offer the laptops in bulk to governments and other education-oriented organisations. The laptop is being manufactured by Taiwan's Quanta Computer, the world's largest contract notebook PC maker.

Intel's low-cost laptops, known as 'Classmate PCs', will be sold by vendors in developing nations from the first quarter of 2007. Intel's reference design should ensure the price is below $400 (£215).