Former OLPC CTO Pursues The $75 Laptop

Mary Lou Jepsen said she and her company, Pixel Qi, want to start from a clean sheet but leverage open-design principles.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

January 11, 2008

2 Min Read

While the One Laptop Per Child program is just beginning to distance itself from its short, unhappy partnership with Intel, it's now faced with a lineup of competitive low-cost computers, including a $75 model envisioned by the OLPC's former CTO.

Mary Lou Jepsen, now CEO and CTO of Pixel Qi, is pursuing the $75 laptop just days after leaving her position at OLPC, where she designed many of the XO's advanced technologies. Pricing suddenly becomes increasingly important as the OLPC's XO, originally planned to cost $100, has gradually crept toward the $200 mark. And in recent weeks, a wave of inexpensive computers has been entering the marketplace.

"I believe that looking at computers in a new, holistic, systemic way, with a clean-sheet approach to computer design -- rather than incrementally increasing the horsepower of the CPU -- is critical to bringing computing and Internet access to more than the one billion affluent who now are its beneficiaries," Jepsen writes on her Web site. "The key is a new generation of low-cost, low power, durable, networked computers, leveraging open-design principles."

Jepsen was instrumental in creating the rugged XO's unique hand power crank and sun-friendly display. She said that Pixel Qi seeks also to make its displays available for cell phones and digital cameras.

Intel, which has its own entries in the increasingly crowded inexpensive ultramobile PC market, quit the OLPC program last week, citing a "philosophical impasse." OLPC's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, complained that Intel was sabotaging its program while promoting the Intel Classmate PC, the processor company's entry in the low-cost market. Intel also supplies its Celeron processor for Asustek Computers' $299 Asus Eee PC.

A $399 ultramobile PC based on a VIA processor and chipset was showcased by Everex at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week.

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