A $75 Laptop from the Hardware Chick of Pixel Qi


Mary Lou Jepsen's XO laptop

I love me some Mary Lou Jepsen. I feel she (almost) single-handedly made One Laptop Per Child's XO Laptop a reality. She has every right to brag to Groklaw that:

"When I started in January 2005, many people thought [OLPC] was a joke, including Craig Barrett and Bill Gates. I took it from that stage -- just an idea of a $100 laptop -- through invention, design and partnering and to delivery.

The laptop is in high volume mass production, it's the lowest cost laptop ever made, the lowest power laptop ever made, it's the greenest laptop ever made, it's the only sunlight-readable laptop on the market,"

And now its looking like she left OLPC just in time to start Pixel Qi, a company she founded to commercialize OLPC technology.

Cutting edge technology the self-described "hardware chick" is going to sell to rich notebook computer buyers to support better educations in poor countries:

"I've created a licensing structure where OLPC and the children of the world benefit through me licensing the technology. I happen to be the inventor as well, but I'm not getting access to the IP by virtue of being its inventor."
Now guess what her first goal is with all that clock-stopping hot technology at her fingertips? Nothing more that a visual revolution across all digital technology:
Pixel Qi is currently pursuing the $75 laptop, while also aiming to bring sunlight readable, low-cost and low-power screens into mainstream laptops, cellphones and digital cameras.
Nokia, sign this woman up! I love me my N95, but I can't even imagine how cool it would be "Jepsenized"!

My only disappointment is that without her to Jepsenize One Laptop Per Child, I expect we'll have more Negropontisms - announcements of technology achievements proven to be fantasy.

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Hello Mary Lou

What I'd really like is a screen (with driver) like the one you designed for the XO and with the same low power requirement, but with

(1) a lower pixel-per-inch resolution

(2) and --- vitally --- an absolutely minimal number of instructions needed to lay out a screen full of pixels in (say) 32 colours chosen from a palette of, ooh, 512 ?


(3) a maximum manufactured cost of around $7 in lots of 100,000-plus.

Can you design me one? Pretty please?

Best of luck, and love,

Martin Woodhouse

"While Negroponte’s goals are admirable, his tactics increasingly seem to be at risk of getting in the way of their realization."


"Using an advanced abacus coupled with a complex system of levers and pulleys, we've determined that when and if the Pixel Qi laptop makes it to market, the cost will be no less than $150, and Nicholas Negroponte will say something crazy about it"


"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."


I can't help feel that I've spent $400 to fund her for profit company. It is still a great program. I'm sure OLPC will continue to benefit from her past and future work. Still...

Could someone explain why Wayan doesn't like Nicolas Negroponte?
Without Negroponte's idea this laptop is useless piece of plastic.
He is the leader of the cause, he fights for his believes, and Mary Lou is just "hardware chick".
She quit the project to pursue her profitable ideas. So why do you like her and dislike him?

I won't speak for Wayan but Dr. Negroponte has displayed some pretty astonishing behaviors and made some less then stellar decisions as far as I'm concerned.

Starting right at the beginning, there was the inherently arrogant sales program with its ridiculous sales requirements. Dr. Negroponte proposed to dictate minimum sales volumes of a million units for computers which didn't exist and wouldn't for a year or more. Where the heck does that come from?

Then there was his utter, and vulgar, dismissiveness at the idea of deviating in the slightest from his sales program.

It wasn't so much a sales program as an imperial decree and really, who the hell is he? He's a university prof of some note but hardly a person to dictate to heads of state and heads of education agencies.

Then there's the original name - One Hundred Dollar Laptop - which was obviously hyperbole chosen more for shock value then any consideration of accuracy.

There's the lack of any coherent, clearly articulated vision of how education's supposed to happen in the presence of the computer.

There was some hand-waving about constructionism and the invoking of the name of Seymour Papert but in terms of the sort of support that one might expect on a sale of this size, there was nothing and "nothing" just wasn't going to be acceptable. Pretty much everything that was supposed to happen after the shipping container hit the dock was up to the purchasing country.

Dr. Negroponte was proposing to sell nothing more then the relatively bare computers and everything else - instructional materials, training of *everybody*, maintenance, spares computers and spare parts and lots more - were left up to the purchasing country. And, he was proposing to dictate purchase terms that where designed to meet the needs of the the OLPC organization. That's pretty ballsy, or pretty arrogant. You choose.

To give Dr. Negroponte his due, there may have been few people with the background to make this happen and the imagination to try. But some of the decisions and oversights just make me shake my head and ask "what was he thinking?"

I agree with Jeremy. What's the difference between Pixel Qi and IBM!!!!!!!! I know I am inviting wrath from the IBM bashers but please be honest. We all support the OLPC cause because its stated with a noble cause and it is a not-for-profit organization. Why cant she design the new 75bucks laptop within the existing OLPC organization!!!!!! I simply don't buy the argument. She might be v good and no doubt from what I have read, it seems that her contribution to the XO display has been exemplary but that still doesn't answer the most fundamental question and that is why is she going to make money by utilizing the know-hows that she acquired while working in a non-profit organization. And whether she agrees or not, her new company would directly compete with OLPC . I have no problem of her quitting OLPC and starting a new job/company that doesn't directly compete with the OLPC both in intent and vision . It seems that she's been opportunistic. Also, can OLPC license the IPs to anyone else in the third world or for that mater to people in the US with the same terms & conditions it offered/or would offer to Ms. Jepsen? It is very unfair to hear criticism towards IBM from folks who support Pixel Qi.

Olpc and Mary Lou are going to ride Moore's law down and produce computers so cheap that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of developing world people will be able to afford them.

This will put Intel in a very awkward position. If it follows the same course with price for the Classmate, it will become so cheap that Intell can't make it's usual high-level profits. If Intel instead keeps upgrading the Classmate, such as to make it capabile of runing Vista when XP support ends, then it will price itself out of the market.

You know, it is simply amazing how much publicity and public discussion the olpc project has been getting. It started when the project was first announced, has continued at a pretty good level since then, and in recent weeks, with the G1G1 campaign and the split with Intel, has become a virtual tidal wave. Lately it seems like every post has two or more links to web articles about olpc, and then the comments have several more.

"Could someone explain why Wayan doesn't like Nicolas Negroponte?
Without Negroponte's idea this laptop is useless piece of plastic."
Without innovation by Mary Lou the idea is just idea. To make OLPC real BOTH vision from Negroponte and innovation from Mary Lou were needed. Some people don't understand it though.

Whether Wayan like NN is different aspect ...

I meant to say Intel and not IBM in my previous post.

I agree with all the Mary Lou love. She's effing brilliant and designed an LCD display I wish we had years ago. Seriously, if I use the OLPC for one thing, it will be as an ebook reader (until E-Ink tech becomes cheap and good). Screen = infinite win, not to mention all the other hardware design and testing she did.

I just hope that people remember the other brilliant people working or volunteering for OLPC. Eben Eliason, Chris Ball, Jordan Crouse, Ivan Krstic, Walter Bender, Mitch Bradley, Jim Gettys, Chris Blizzard and MANY others directly contributed hardware and software innovations to make the XO-1 possible. We may also mention a few hundred Linux kernel contributors. Then there's the engineers from AMD, Marvell, Chi Mei and Quanta. Seymour Papert, Alan Kay and many others invented "Constructionist Learning", Logo, Smalltalk and Squeak+Etoys. Without Guido van Rossum and friends there wouldn't be Python, the first-class programming language for Sugar. This doesn't even scratch the surface.

Mapping the the major technology milestones that led to the XO-1 would be an interesting trail of discovery. I wonder if the official OLPC wiki maintainers would be cool with that? It'd be a cool way of crediting deserving people and fully answering "How'd they do that?"

Finally, a little bit on Fearless Leader. I like to think that OLPC is bigger than Dr. Negroponte now. His leadership, influence and experience got the project off the ground and attracted the "right people", but maybe he needs to step back and be a better example of humility and restraint. Fortunately, everyone else within OLPC seems to be a bit more level-headed, including Mary Lou Jepsen. So they didn't sell 100 million laptops. Boo hoo. So, what?! Why be a jerk about it, Nick? OLPC has buyers now, despite the mistakes and oversights. G1G1 will fund additional pilot projects and buy time to make XO-2 and Sugar 2.0 awesome (instead of 'potentially awesome').

Maybe he needs to stop and smell the roses.


You remind me that I am remiss in forgetting about all the OLPC contributors. I do think each and every one - down to NN's admin - each should be thanked for their efforts. Yet, I still believe that to-date, Jepsen's impact was the greatest.

And we both agree on Negroponte. The hyperbole worn thin a while back. Its time for him to chill and let the educators take over.

Irvin quoted:
"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."

Actually, the debate the NYT is referring to looks exactly like the debate that raged on OLPCnews:

And look who was the first commenter?
"Can she legally commercialize patents/products that supposedly belong to a non-profit - OLPC?

Are there any agreements we don't know about between Jepsen and Negroponte that makes this murky situation possible?"

So whe have come full circle.
1 Irvin starts a campaign on OLPCnews to taint Mary-Lou and the OLPC as frauds
2 Irvin pokes the flames high
3 A journalist takes up the debate fuelled by Irvin
4 Irvin points to a newspaper saying that the OLPC are criticized as frauds
5 Irvin claims/implies the OLPC must be frauds because it is in the newspaper

The same tactics have been spotted on Groklaw when SCO gave fake controversial material to journalists so they could claim in court there was a controversy.


"I can't help feel that I've spent $400 to fund her for profit company. It is still a great program. I'm sure OLPC will continue to benefit from her past and future work. Still..."

Pity you feel that way - you had an opportunity (which others outside US & Canada had not) to buy two very special computers $400 (ie cost of one EEE PC) and one of them will be a great gift to a poor child somewhere. You should feel proud and privileged instead. Of course, if you see things differently (that, somehow, you "fund" someone instead) you can still sell it to someone else - I don't think you going loose much money:

( http://cgi.ebay.com.au/One-Laptop-Per-Child-OLPC-XO-In-Hand-and-Ready-to-Ship_W0QQitemZ250203339689QQihZ015QQcategoryZ177QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD2VQQcmdZViewItem?_trksid=p1638.m122 )