HP today announced it is launching a small and affordable laptop for primary school children. Much like Intel's Classmate PC, the Mini 100e comes in a beefy plastic case resistant to spills and some rough play, with a built-in handle and a 10.1-inch LED backlit WSVGA display. It's also based on a fairly standard netbook configuration, including a single-core 1.66GHz Atom N455 processor, 1GB of RAM and the choice of either a 160GB hard disk or 16GB solid-state drive (SSD).

The Mini 100e can be fitted with either a three or six-cell battery and comes with a modem in addition to Ethernet, a reasonable addition considering it is designed for emerging markets where older internet options could be available. Unfortunately wireless connectivity is not included by default, but rather as an optional feature. At about 3.2 pounds, it's a bit heavier than some netbooks but still easy enough for kids to carry around.

In terms of software, HP is pre-loading Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Math and Microsoft Security Essentials, as well as giving users a choice of three operating systems: Windows 7 Starter, Windows XP Home or SuSE Linux Enterprise 11.The Mini 100e will go on sale next month, just in time for the back-to-school rush, and will cost no more than $300 according to HP. It doesn't seem like you'll be able to find it on the shelf at your local electronics store, though, as the company is apparently looking to sell these in volume through deals with schools and other educational institutions.