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Former OLPC CTO Aims to Create $75 Laptop 207

Posted by timothy
from the go-go-mary-lou dept.
theodp writes "Mary Lou Jepsen, who left her One Laptop Per Child CTO gig on Dec. 31st, has reemerged with her sights set on a $75 laptop that will be designed by her new company, Pixel Qi, which is described as a 'spin-out' from OLPC. In a Groklaw interview, Jepsen calls for 'a $50-75 laptop in the next 2-3 years' and says it's time to go Crazy-Eddie on touchscreen prices as well." This is probably good news to Bruce Perens, who thinks that the recent report of Microsoft's dual-boot XO project (with Windows as well as the Linux-based Sugar OS) is a feint driven by Microsoft's fear of "the entire third world learning Linux as children." Update: 01/10 21:22 GMT by T : ChelleChelle adds a link to an excellent interview with Jepsen in the ACM Queue, in which she discusses OLPC and some of the technologies it contains.
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Former OLPC CTO Aims to Create $75 Laptop

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  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:05PM (#21988080) Homepage Journal
    Love the smell of Vapor in the morning.

    That's "vapour", for my fellow POHMs.
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#21988294) Journal

      Love the smell of Vapor in the morning.
      Ok, well, I guess to be fair, we should give her a little more credit than that. Mary Lou Jepson [wikipedia.org] does have a PhD in opitcs and a BS in EE. She seems to be quite competent and is credited with some key design and inventions for the OLPC and also working politics with companies to design these displays specifically for the laptop, defined by the laptop. Not an easy thing to do.

      So I'm guessing she was upset from the cost and believes that she can cut cost by doing again what she did for the OLPC, designing a better, cheaper display. This time, she can probably negotiate better deals as I'm sure the # of XOs in development causes display manufacturers to salivate.

      So, before you accuse this of being vaporware, I would caution you that she has held up her end once for the OLPC ... and she seems to be highly motivated. She's got street cred.

      Now, what makes me salivate is the site's promise to keep everything open. The software's a given at this point but open hardware would be revolutionary and present yet another learning possibility for users.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by xtracto (837672)
        Agree, Mary Lou is one of the persons who I believe deserve a slashdot interview. She and that cryptologist lady.
        • Elonka Dunn? (Score:3, Informative)

          by eldavojohn (898314) *

          She and that cryptologist lady.
          Elonka Dunn [wikipedia.org]? It never ceases to amaze me when someone says "Oh yeah, I like whats-her-face a lot." You could bother to find out what her name is or admit that you don't think enough of her to remember her name.
    • That's "vapour", for my fellow POHMs.

      POHM being a resistance of 10e15 ohms? The amount of voltage that will be required to power that computer, even at minute amperage, will certainly be too lethal to let children play with it.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:08PM (#21988122) Homepage
    We already have the $10 laptop [wikipedia.org]
  • ...and (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:11PM (#21988176)
    ...and it will end-up being $175 instead. We all saw how the $100 laptop dry run went.
  • by quanticle (843097) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:11PM (#21988184) Homepage

    When I was young, all the computers at school ran MacOS. My entire introduction to computing was done on Apple IIs and Macintoshes. However, when it came time to buy a computer for home, our family bought a Windows machine because it had better specs. Starting these kids out on Linux doesn't necessarily mean that they'll stay with Linux.

  • I don't see the LCD screens getting down to a price making this possible. The other option would be the laser projectors but it's new technology and it'll be years before they are cheap enough. With memory prices dropping I can see it with most of the components but I can't see anyway around the display problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)
      I don't see the LCD screens getting down to a price making this possible.

      Hmm, I dunno, maybe Ms. Jepsen will create some innovative new display filter technology that allows 200dpi color-capable LCD screens with backlighting to be built for roughtly the same cost as a 75dpi monochrome LCD screen. Wouldn't that be something...
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:12PM (#21988194) Journal

    This is probably good news to Bruce Perens, who thinks that the recent report of Microsoft's dual-boot XO project (with Windows as well as the Linux-based Sugar OS) is a feint driven by Microsoft's fear of the entire third world learning Linux [CC] as children.
    I thought we were worried about them learning to fish?
  • If the OLPC was supposed to be a $100 laptop but is sold for 200, then this new crazy laptop will cost 150. This is great news. Maybe they should develop a voting machine based on this technology, sell it to the government and give the laptops away for free to the OLPC.
    • If the OLPC was supposed to be a $100 laptop but is sold for 200, then this new crazy laptop will cost 150. This is great news. Maybe they should develop a voting machine based on this technology, sell it to the government and give the laptops away for free to the OLPC.

      Let's take that in context.

      The enormity of the price overrun is attributable to M$ getting OLPC to increase the specs drastically [olpcnews.com] until the hardware became at least theoretically possible to run M$ Cruftware. If M$ boosters cannot kill the OLPC, they have to [dailytechnobabble.com] at least slow it down by any means necessary. Failing to do so means that a market for notebooks opens up without their monopoly. Todate M$ business model has focussed largely on leveraging the desktop monopoly Bill's mom got for him from IBM.

      • And it's not exactly a burner with the Sugar interface. So if

        The enormity of the price overrun is attributable to M$ getting OLPC to increase the specs drastically until the hardware became at least theoretically possible to run M$ Cruftware

        Then it was a fortuitous move since having it even more underpowered would make it a most unpleasant user experience. Never attribute to malice what can explained by incompetence (or merely wishful thinking).

    • by mrsbrisby (60242)

      If the OLPC was supposed to be a $100 laptop but is sold for 200, then this new crazy laptop will cost 150
      Oh no, they're like tacheons. This guy will be like 500$ or something.
  • You walk in to a computer store, and you see the 100 dollar laptop and right next to it you see the 75 dollar laptop -- which one you gonna spring for?
  • Time to go Crazy Eddie? They do know that Crazy Eddie was forced to sell out of his own company, fled to Israel, and later went to jail for fraud, right? There's good reason companies don't usually mention his name these days.

    Although as a kid I used to go to his store to get cheap video games...
  • Although not a laptop I can show you a 5 cent word processor [thegeminiweb.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bralkein (685733)
      From the article you linked to:

      While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for One Laptop Per Childs XO laptop. As we announced in December, Microsoft plans to publish formal design guidelines early this year that will assist flash-based device manufacturers in designing machines that enable a high-quality Windows experience. Our current goal remains to provide a high-quality Windows experience on the XO device. In addition, there will b

      • by Pecisk (688001)
        Wow, ZDNET feels like total Microsoft shill here. But I guess all this is just a empty noice - if XP could run on XO, then it would already did. Classmate PC and other "alternatives" for XO indicates that Microsoft has nothing to set against XO.
  • The last sentence of the story renders in an odd way for me.

    This is probably good news to Bruce Perens, who thinks that the recent report of Microsoft's dual-boot XO project (with Windows as well as the Linux-based Sugar OS) is a feint driven by Microsoft's fear of "the entire third world learning Linux as children."

    for me, 'fear of "the entire third world learning Linux' is underlined as a link, but '"the entire third world learning Linux as children."' is green like a link. Does this have something to do
    • by muellerr1 (868578)
      A little of both. It's a malformed link coupled with the Safari Webkit application framework.
  • How about a DS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman (158191) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:39PM (#21988662) Homepage Journal
    I think this guy [dreamhost.com] has a lot of good points. (Just skip halfway down past the ranty bits. :-) )

    The Nintendo DS...
    • It's cheap. ($129... and I'm sure if you order 150 million Nintendo will cut you a deal.)
    • It's power-efficient. (Easily lasts 14 hours on a single charge, even with the screen bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight.. there's even a hand-crank charger!)
    • It's a computer. (All advantages to be gained by giving a young child a laptop are also gained by giving a child a DS. Just by using a DS they'll become confident and "fluent" in the use of technology, and future "real" computer use will come much much easier. Worked for me!)
    • It's got wi-fi. (In fact, it even does ad-hoc networking, and allows downloading content from one host DS to all the others.. just the teacher could have the lesson plan on their DS and wirelessly beam it to all the students at the start of each class!)
    • It's rugged. (Nintendo's been making toys for actual children for over 100 years and Game Boys have survived actual wars.)
    • It's powerful enough. (If it can handle Mario Kart tournaments, it can handle Multipli Kation tables.)
    • It's small and has a touch screen. (Like the iPhone. Just like laptops have replaced the desktop, in the future ever smaller portable electronics will replace the laptop. Why teach on antiquated technology?)
    • It's forward-compatible. (Nintendo's portable systems have very long life cycles. Any software you write for the DS will very likely still be runable on the hardware they're selling in a decade.)
    • Children love it. (You want a teaching tool that's "fun to use?" You want a teaching tool that's "collaborative" You've hit "the jackpot.")
    • It's a world-wide standard. (Over 53 MILLION have been sold already. The platform has thousands of developers. The future leaders of the developed world are growing up playing Nintendo DS.. why give the future leaders of the developing world anything less?)
    • It's already used for education. (Millions use their DS to learn a language, develop logic skills, practice cooking, learn math, read books, research, and browse the web every day!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blind biker (1066130)
      Nice idea. For me, the disadvantage compared to the OLPC is that you can't run (or at least I don't know of one) a development environment on the DS itself. And even if you could, it's usage would be challenging.
    • by RobBebop (947356)

      The DS relies on Proprietary Software. Proprietary Software vendors usually like to charge money for their Software. Thus, the $129 cost you quoted is ONLY IF YOU WANT A FUNCTION-LESS BRICK.

      One reason why OLPC is so cheap is because the OS was developed by Red Hat from a Linux based system. The education programs that come with it are also Open. And the children can develop their own programs to further improve the OLPC.

      Education with a DS would become too much of a business to serve the children an

    • Re:How about a DS? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:34PM (#21989660)
      It doesnt have a keyboard and the screen is way, way too small to be used for anything serious like schoolwork. Just because theyre third-world doesnt mean they deserve junk like this. Their ergonomics should be important to us. Its a real shame it isnt.
    • Re:How about a DS? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kuukai (865890) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:45PM (#21989872) Journal
      Well, this has many of the same problems the Classmate does, according to TFA. It isn't waterproof, it's not very durable despite your assertions (if you don't know someone with a broken one, you need to get out more), and the battery life/expense/environmental-effect isn't very good. Like the sibling posts mentioned, it also requires licenses to develop for, and it has no keyboard, making input tedious. In addition, there are some general factual errors with your post. Hanafuda isn't "for children," so I wouldn't say Nintendo has been in the toy business for a 100 years. Also I don't know of any software to "learn cooking" on the DS any better than you can "learn guitar" on the PS2... Cooking Mama gives you a "general idea," but you're not going to succeed without a real recipe. The kind you can look up on Google. With an XO.
  • I saw an ad in the paper this morning; 3GB core, 300GB disk, wifi, DVD burner, webcam $999.

    2GB/160GB $549
  • So here's what I think actually happened. Jepson (Ms. or Mrs anyone know?) got tired of turning down backroom deals from Microsoft and realized there was insane amounts of money to be made by creating a low end device and letting MS pay you to not install Linux on it. She figured she could make herself untold riches and at the same time drain some cash away from MS, potentially weakening them and helping third world countries. I see the business model as follows:

    1. Spec out a new low end device including Li
  • by viner! (212481)
    Hitchhiker: You heard of this thing, the 8-Minute Abs?
    Ted Stroehmann: Yeah, sure, 8-Minute Abs. Yeah, the excercise video.
    Hitchhiker: Yeah, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7... Minute... Abs.
    Ted Stroehmann: Right. Yes. OK, alright. I see where you're going.
    Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?
    Ted Stroehmann: I would go for the 7.
    Hitchhiker: Bingo,
  • by hhawk (26580) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:06PM (#21989158) Homepage Journal
    This is huge news. I've always said we need a computer that many people in the world can afford. With 5-6 Billion People a 600 to 700 machine is so far beyond their reach. I'd really like to see a $25 machine but $75 great.

    My theory, un-tested is that most family's can't afford to budget more than 1 weeks income every 3-4 years for a computer. Of course the wealthy can do whatever they wish. Personally I spend $800 on a monitor every 5-7 years and $400 to $500 on a new CPU/Box every 14 months.

    With a price at $75 I would expect that means there is at leaset 1 BILLION people whose family can now afford such a device, and may be more than that. I'd like a machine that 4 Billion people could afford every 3-5 years. They we will have a real shot a planet wide culture. Today we have A few 100 million to a Billion people spending most of the $$, most of the energy, etc.

    Putting a cheap computer in their home will not change economics but it can help teach them to read, and give them a path to education, which might take a few generations but will help all over time.

    Personally low powered desktops would be better than laptops esp. a model that could use the TV screen to lower costs, for those homes that have TVs.

    • Family finances are really more flexible than that.

      The "Poor" get EIC credits, which they turn around to spend on things. Not all of them spend every last cent on the cheapest Price-per-pound bread, rice, & celery.

      The "Middle Class" can often "afford" to budget more than "one week's pay per 3/4 years". This group is susceptible to the "Coffee Fallacy". If you get them in an emotional mood, they'll say "I can't afford to spend Five hundred dollars on a computer...". Then they go buy a coffee and go back
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hhawk (26580)
        I think EIC is US thing? I'm not really sure. I'm fairly sure that the bulk of the world's poor, up to 5 Billion of them in places like China, India, Africa, etc. don't get EIC.
  • Sooner or later the global market is going to teach MS that the marginal cost of software is $0.00. At that point the platform that is better at doing things for free is pretty much sure to win out.

    So yeah; bring it on.
    • "At that point the platform that is better at doing things for free is pretty much sure to win out."

      Or better yet the platform that is pretty good at doing things for cheap or free is good enough.

      I love it that there is now becoming competition and market for something that does not have 2 gigs of ram and a 500 gig hard drive and a gigaflop super duper core processor and blue lightScribe DVD running through a battery in 45 minutes to power a $400 OS from Microsoft or Mac.

      Most people could (and want
  • It'll cost $150 and you'll have to buy two of them at once and only get one, right? And you'll only be able to buy it for a week. No, two. No, a month. No, 6 weeks. No, however long we say.

    That seems like how the last "$100 laptop" program worked out for OLPC.

    I don't get why Slashdot gives so much press to these people when they admit they can't maintain their own goals, the program is mired in political bullshit, and the very idea of giving kids a laptop and acting as if it will cure all their ills is idea
    • by Doug Merritt (3550) <doug@nOSPam.remarque.org> on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:08AM (#21995470) Homepage Journal
      Reading your (few and ancient) journal entries, apparently you have wondered in the past why you have been called a Troll.

      I don't get why Slashdot gives so much press to these people when they admit they can't maintain their own goals,

      "Citation needed", except you're probably merely talking about the OLPC target price of $100 versus the recent actual price of $188. Well, duh, "target price" is a hope for the future. Initial price being higher is not "admitting they can't maintain their own goals". Sheesh.

      the program is mired in political bullshit,

      "Citation needed", very definitely. "Mired" is unsupportable, and "political bullshit" is created by their enemies (clearly including Intel at this point), but you phrase it as if OLPC themselves did something wrong. I call bullshit.

      and the very idea of giving kids a laptop and acting as if it will cure all their ills is idealistic at absolute best.

      "Citation needed" once again. You make me tired. Talk about hyperbole. No OLPC person has ever said that the OLPC goals will "cure all their ills". That's bigtime bullshit, and you should be ashamed for the misrepresentation, you really should.

      OLPC is bust,

      "Citation needed" yet again! They are shipping. They're an ongoing concern. There is no strong evidence that they have actually "failed" (either short term or long term) in any sense at all.

      Netcraft confirms.

      I searched Netcraft and saw nothing about OLPC, but maybe I just wasn't thorough enough. Still, this smacks of merely more of your trolling.

      Before posting, I checked your slashdot journal and your website. Your research seems interesting, you seem superficially as if you might be an interesting person, but apparently once in a while you just get irrationally angry on some topic and, given what you yourself have said on the topics in question, do not understand that that's what you have done. Introspect more, then you will see why (once a year or so, since you post infrequently) people say you are a big time Troll.

      You're being so much of a troll here that it makes me wonder what you did 5 years ago to get +1 Karma. Maybe you should wonder, too, and then try to repeat your positive side, rather than your negative side!

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