Mary Lou Jepsen stirred up a controversy when she left the struggling One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) not-for-profit organisation last year to start her own for-profit company, Pixel Qi, with the goal to create a $75 (£37.50) laptop using technologies she invented at OLPC.

Jepsen's departure prompted critics to accuse her of taking advantage of OLPC's nonprofit inventions for personal gain, but supporters shot back, saying it was the right time for her to leave a listing ship.

OLPC has been afflicted by production delays and rising costs over years, with the laptop's estimated price rising from $100 (£50) to $188 (£94). It is now beset by waning orders and competition from commercial vendors like Intel that threaten to sideline the not-for-profit effort.

Jepsen denied the allegations, saying her departure was put in place early last year, and that she continues to work with OLPC on developing technologies for future XO laptops, while selling it for a profit to commercial organisations.

Technologies she invented at OLPC include the display system optimised for low-power operation, which has been implemented in the XO laptop.

Retaining the OLPC spirit, Jepsen said Pixel Qi is developing inexpensive products like a power-efficient display that can be used in developing countries. She chatted about the new company, the $75 laptop and her days at OLPC.

How is Pixel Qi progressing?

"Things are going great. I've done a lot of startups before, but this is a very unusual startup. It's got products to ship already, so that's unusual.

"It's getting a lot of attention, which surprises me, but it is good that people are interested."

Are you working on the $75 laptop right now?

"The $75 laptop - maybe people are interested in it because it's a catch phrase, but mostly it's about designing things for the billions of people that are joining the information age right now. That's what Pixel Qi strongly believes in."

"Right now I'm starting this company to get a lot of the technologies that were in OLPC's XO laptop into other laptops and cell phones as a first priority. Then I'll be working with OLPC to focus on driving that next-generation laptop.

"But we just started shipping this generation of XO laptops, we owe it to ourselves to see how the children use them before we start in earnest the design and development cycle to have the feedback from children in different countries.

"I'm focused on getting the screens and power management into other people's small laptops and cell phones right now. I think the $75 laptop will happen pretty soon, but again I'm not really focused on it right now but the innovations that I'm working on can go into that."

"That mimics what we did at OLPC. We thought a lot about designing the XO laptop before executing on it. It's a lot easier to redesign on paper.

"We are taking this time and really talking to a lot of who's who in technology about what the $75 laptop should be. But it's certainly possible to go lower price. If you look, there are $10 (£5) CPUs around."

NEXT PAGE: Mary Lou Jepsen discusses the perception that she left OLPC to privatise the technology and make money from it, along with her plans for the future.

In December last year Mary Lou Jepsen stirred up controversy when she left the struggling One Laptop Per Child not-for-profit organisation to start her own for-profit company. She gave us the lowdown on her departure from OLPC and her goal to create a $75 laptop using the technologies she invented at OLPC.

There is a perception that you left OLPC to privatise the technology and make money out of it.

"I arranged it with Nicholas Negroponte.

"My departure has been well planned and organised with OLPC. It was in place since spring of 2007 and I was committed to delivering the XO into high volume mass production. But as somebody that invents, develops and gets hardware into mass production, there wasn't much more for me to do at OLPC after that.

"On some level, I was responsible for making a laptop and, I realised I should keep doing this. So I got access to the intellectual property and patents.

"Not because I was the inventor, and not even because the inventor has the really good chance of improving the price and performance of her invention, but because OLPC is the beneficiary as the licensee.

"I'm still in spirit with OLPC, but now I'm with Pixel Qi, and I am not working on just children, but adults and trying to get the cost down. That doesn't mean just Dell on a diet if you will, but a laptop that people are proud to own and proud to use, at low cost and designed for different environments.

"The mass market - there's literally billions of people that want to join this information age, and they need products too. They need interesting products, not stripped down stuff. The XO is probably the first in that line."

A $75 computer seems optimistic considering OLPC's inability to produce a $100 laptop. Can you walk us through the changes needed in component prices and system design to reach that target?

"I don't think it's that hard, frankly. If you look at the cost of flash and DRAM, they go down 50 percent year over year.

"You look at screens, they go down 30 percent every year. If you look at the cost of CPUs, some of them stay expensive but there are several companies working on the $10 CPU right now.

"There are pretty low-cost parts, but using low power, guess what you don't use the same amount of processing power.

"Your battery is really inexpensive if you don't use a lot of power because it won't need as many cells, for example. I think it's very straightforward.

"There's ways to hit the $75 envelope if you look at the mechanicals and the keyboards and everything else you need on the motherboard.

"I think we know how to integrate the components and work with manufacturers and producers to get there very quickly to lowering the price and increasing the performance. But then again, you have to redefine performance for a cow herder and pick your country."

NEXT PAGE: Mary Lou Jepsen discusses whether budget PCs are 'just gadgets' and what really happened with Intel and OLPC

We spoke to Mary Lou Jepsen, ex-employee of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) who controversially left the not-for-profit organisation to pursue her own 475 laptop venture. She told us about her plans for her new company, Pixel-Qi, and what really happened between the OLPC and Intel.

All of that still calls for performance. Is there going to be some kind of trade-off in capabilities relative to a mainstream notebook?

"There's two ways to be fast, one is the standard, more blah way, where you just heap on the MHz and then heap on the code. Vista's footprint is 12GB, as opposed to our OS at OLPC, it's 0.1GB, it's 120 times smaller.

"You could do big code and big iron or skinny down the code and make do with a 500MHz processor, that was a state-of-the-art laptop in 2000.

"All of the software has gotten bloated, and do you really need a little paper clip guy or doggy telling you what to do?

"The XO is an outdoor usable laptop. You can drop it, you can spill on it and the batteries last a long time. And it's green. Those are performance metrics that really matter.

"Making your batteries last a week is also a performance criteria. Intel has said for a number of years that it's not about 1MHz more anymore, it's about lowering the power consumption."

Are inexpensive laptops a new category?

IDC says notebook computers like Eee PC don't take feature when they measure market share or measure unit shipments. They're calling the category "notebook gadgets". How do you feel about that?

"It's funny. I don't feel much about the word. I just talked at a gadget conference, "Greener Gadgets", but Intel's Craig Barrett, when he was trying to be derogatory toward the laptop project, called it a gadget.

"I think that we think of gadgets as things that don't really work for long, have a short life and are transient, not real machines. The XO lasts two-and-a-half times longer than a standard laptop.

"That's not a gadget-like property of it. What is a gadget? Is it a learning machine or is your laptop a gadget or cell phone a gadget?"

Did Intel undermine the OLPC project with its Classmate PC?

"It's such a long story with them, especially for me because I used to work at Intel. It's hard for me to summarise.

"Certainly, there are so many individuals at that company on the technical side when we finally got working together, it was great.

"We were really pursuing and I think it's been announced, an Intel chip in the XO, that was something we were working well together on with their technical team. I think the difficulty was from the sales and marketing side as I understand it and I really wasn't involved in that in OLPC.

"I would only hear from the ministers in the countries I would visit and from Nicholas and so forth. I wasn't that involved in it towards the end."

Is there a release date for the $75 laptop?

"It's not that hard. It will take about two years. Realistically it does need that time because what you have to do first is make the components and then you put them together. At OLPC it took three years because we had to start with the disbelief, but now people believe.

"Now cut that down to about two years, it's about reasonable. It's 2010 we're looking at."