In yet another move designed to expedite the adoption of networked technology in developing countries (and probably to garner some positive PR as well), semiconductor giant Intel is working with Middle Eastern software companies to create an electronic version of the Qur'an for use in Saudi Arabia. The device, known as the E-Quran, is a handheld, low-power computer similar to the Xell Bible Master B10, which contains the full text of the Islamic holy book along with audio versions in 40 languages and interactive, interpretive material. Surprisingly, the gadget also sports wireless internet connectivity, which is likely employed to send pertinent passages to other users and not for updating the content; we're no theologians, but we're pretty sure that these major religious tomes remain mostly static documents. It's worth mentioning that this is not the first time a company has chosen to target Muslims with its goods, as we've already seen cellphones that direct the user to Mecca, an illuminated prayer rug, and even a dedicated Pocket PC. What's more, this isn't even Intel's first attempt at engaging in cultural diversity: back in 2004, the company completed a three-year study detailing the unique ways in which different cultures utilize their gadgets. Besides the digital Qur'an -- being developed in conjunction with software manufacturer Dar Al Rasm Al-Othmani -- Intel is also teaming up with a company called Semanoor to build training computers for Saudi teachers as part of the E-Curriculum program. The announcement of both of these projects comes just a few weeks after Intel committed to donating several hundred of its low-cost Classmate PC laptops to the Brazilian government, pitting the Santa Clara firm against OLPC and Encore's Mobilis tablet in what has strangely become a heated battle to supply emerging markets with low-end hardware.

Update: Why can't we publish one story involving religion where the comments don't devolve into hateful, prejudicial speech? Apologies to the folks who were attempting to have a thoughtful, on-topic conversation about this post, but once again a few bad apples have forced us to close commenting on the thread. All off-topic postings have been deleted.

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Intel developing electronic Qur'an for Saudi Arabia