Saturday, January 12, 2008

In pursuit of the $75 laptop

Designer of computer for needy children starts company

The scientist who designed a notebook computer for poor children that is being produced and sold by a nonprofit foundation has set up a company to commercialize the technology with a goal of producing a $75 laptop computer.

Mary Lou Jepsen, who left her post as chief technology officer of the One Laptop per Child Foundation at the end of last year, said on the company's Web site that she has founded the company, called Pixel Qi, and described it as "a spin-out" from the nonprofit group.

Jepsen invented a low-cost, low-power sunreadable screen while at the foundation from 2005 to 2007. She also co-invented its power management system.

Meanwhile, Intel Corp. is still nursing a PR black eye after pulling out of a deal that could potentially narrow the digital divide in developing countries. Reversing its long-standing opposition to the proposal, Intel said on Friday it will support the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers' project to put computers in the hands of poor children around the world. The low-cost laptops are designed for children such as the Nigerian students pictured above. To date, Peru is the program's largest customer. Details from InformationWeek and the Los Angeles Times.

The OLPC Project started as an attempt to build a $100 laptop aimed at kids in poor nations, but the laptop from the group, known as the XO, will likely end up costing nearly double that amount, at least initially. The organizers of the effort, led by academics and researchers from MIT, hope heavy volume sales of the laptops will drive down costs.

There's still another component to this story. According to the International Business Times, the One Laptop per Child project will broaden its distribution to include needy children in U.S. schools.

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