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OLPC defector plans $75 laptop

Pizel Qi enters low-cost laptop race

A laptop under $100 could reach desks if a new venture formed by former chief technology officer of One Laptop Per Child, Mary Lou Jepsen, can deliver on its promises.

A "spin-out" from OLPC, the company, Pixel Qi is looking to create a $75 laptop and trying to advance low-cost computers and power-efficient laptops, mobile phones and other consumer electronics that are sunlight readable, Jepsen wrote on the company's website.

Jepsen left OLPC two weeks ago to commercialise technologies she invented with OLPC, she said at the time. A patent lists Jepsen as one of the inventors of a display system optimized for low-power operation.

"Spinning out from OLPC enables the development of a new machine, beyond the XO [laptop], while leveraging a larger market for new technologies," Jepsen wrote.

There is a big commercial market for technology spawned by OLPC, Jepsen wrote. Prices for next-generation hardware can be brought down by allowing multiple uses of key technology advances, she wrote.

The company will continue to work with OLPC by providing products at cost, and it will sell devices at a profit to commercial organisations.

A similar promise to introduce a low-cost laptop came from OLPC, when it launched the $100 XO laptop in 2005. Since then, the effort has been afflicted by production delays and rising costs, which caused the laptop's estimated price to rise to $200. It is now beset by waning orders and competition from commercial vendors that threaten to sideline the nonprofit effort.

As CTO, Jepsen was responsible for hardware development for the rugged and power-saving XO laptop, designed for use by children in developing countries. Though the laptop has struggled to find buyers, it has been praised for its environmentally friendly design and innovative display, hardware and networking features.

Her departure from OLPC spawned a debate, with critics charging that Jepsen was taking advantage of OLPC's nonprofit inventions for personal gains, but supporters shot back, saying it was the right time for her to leave a sinking ship.

Jepsen, who is attending the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was not available for comment.

See our CES 2008 Blog for full coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show


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