Users should have their hands on Intel's Galileo computer within two weeks

Intel's Galileo board will be based on the extremely low-power Quark processor

Intel's Quark extremely low power chip

Intel's Quark extremely low power chip

Intel's open-source Galileo computer aimed at hardware hackers and the do-it-yourself crowd has started shipping to distributors and will be available to the public in two weeks.

"Boards should be available for purchase from select distributors in the U.S. and Europe within the next 2 weeks, with others coming online thereafter," Claudine Mangano, an Intel spokeswoman, said Monday via email.

Galileo is a computing board that is a little larger than a credit card and comes without a case. The computer uses Intel's extremely low-power Quark processor, and is targeted at a community of hardware hackers and hobbyists who make computing devices such as home electronics, health monitors, robots and media centers.

Intel had said Galileo would be priced under US$60, but online retailer Mouser Electronics is taking orders for $69 per unit. Mouser expects to begin shipping units Dec. 16.

Galileo will also be sold by specialist retailers Avnet, Arrow, Ingram and Maker Shed, according to Intel.

Galileo is priced higher than the popular $25 Raspberry Pi open-source PC, which uses an ARM processor and has 1080p graphics capabilities. Other ARM-based boards like BeagleBone are available for under $50.

Some experiments carried out with Galileo include the YesYesBot, a disposable robot that hands out candy, and Lyt, a lighted panel that can be controlled from mobile devices. A key Galileo feature is full support for the Arduino development environment, which is widely used to write simple applications for electronics.

Intel is also enlisting the help of the maker community to figure out ways to use its new line of Quark chips, which use less power than Atom chips. Quark chips are for wearable devices and small electronics. Intel has committed to releasing to schematics and design of the board for others to replicate.

The hobbyist hardware market is not inconsequential, and it makes sense for Intel to pursue that crowd, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"It's a pretty large market if you look at the sales of Raspberry Pi," which broke 2 million units in sales two weeks ago, McCarron said.

Beyond the products, Intel will also be able to spread its software tools to a new audience. Intel wants more people to write applications for the x86 architecture, and students sometimes familiarize themselves with software development as hobbyists, McCarron said.

"This is opening another front on the Intel versus ARM battle," McCarron said.

The 32-bit Quark chip in Galileo is based on an x86 Pentium design and runs at a clock speed of 400MHz. It has 512KB of RAM. Other key Galileo features include 256MB DRAM, 8MB flash, a micro-SD connector slot, a 100Mbps (bits per second) Ethernet port, a mini PCI-Express slot, a USB 2.0 port and a RS-232 serial port. Power supplies and other components can be bought separately.

Intel will also donate 50,000 Galileo computers to students at more than 1,000 universities and that remains a priority for the company, Mangano said.

"This program is well underway now and will reach thousands of universities worldwide by the end of the coming year," Mangano said.

Intel hasn't yet disclosed the names of colleges and universities that will receive the donated boards, but institutions can apply to receive boards through Intel's website.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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