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Former OLPC CTO Aims to Create $75 Laptop

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the go-go-mary-lou dept.

Portables 207

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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If we're going to go that cheap... (1, Insightful)

suprcvic (684521) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988068)

Why not just send all the kids TI-89's and teach them how to program those. I can't imagine anybody creating a PC of any worth for less than the cost of a graphing calculator.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988298)

I was thinking along similar lines. But an 89 still costs over $100. How do they plan to make a computer for less than a calculator costs?

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988608)

By not taking as much of a profit as TI does?

They were a bit over $100 when I got mine 6 years ago. Do you honestly think they haven't done any R&D in the last 6 years to cut prices down? The whole thing could probably be done on a single chip now.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

stuporglue (1167677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988902)

An 89 costs $100ish retail, I'd guess that TI has already made back their R&D costs and is now making quite a bit of profit on those things. Also, I think the market for computers is bigger than that of graphing calculators.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (3, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989526)

I was thinking along similar lines. But an 89 still costs over $100. How do they plan to make a computer for less than a calculator costs?
Perhaps by not trying to charge $100 for something that was barely state-of-the-art ten years ago, and depending on their monopoly position in the market to ensure that people pony up?

The TI calculators are a prime example of how a market can stagnate when there's no competition. Pretty much since HP abandoned the educational market (which struck me as a bad idea, given how the professional market is getting eaten up by computer software packages) TI has rested on its laurels. Sure, every once in a while they toss out an incremental upgrade -- a little more RAM or Flash here, a little better screen there -- but by and large they're not doing a damn thing with their lineup, and they haven't decreased the prices much at all.

The TI-89 isn't bad -- it's probably the best handheld calculator out there, depending on how you feel about the HP-49 series -- but I can't help but wonder what we'd have if TI actually had some motivation to actually turn out a new model and cut prices every year or so, like the rest of the computer-hardware industry.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988610)

That just shows you how overpriced graphing calculators are. Don't you think the prices should have dropped a bit more in the past 10 years? I guess when every HS student across the country has to buy one for their college prep classes there's not much incentive to compete on price.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

snoyberg (787126) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988732)

And the worst part is that TI has a virtual monopoly on this; for many standardized exams you have to use one of their calculators. Talk about stifling competition.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (2, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989222)

You can use the HP graphing calculator instead, you just have to know how to use it. In fact, from what I have heard the HP calculators dominate in the actual engineering working world while the TI calculators are mostly limited to education. That ought to tell you something about the relative usefulness of HP calculators compared to TI.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988864)

There's nothing a graphing calculator can do on a test question that you couldn't do faster with a regular scientific calculator and some clever thinking. They're not only overpriced, they're a crutch that directly hinders college prep classes.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

boris111 (837756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989272)

Around 2000 I remember buying my graphing calculator at Kmart for $50. It wasn't their nicest calculator, but it got me through all of college. I ended resorting to my cheaper and smaller Scientific calculator most of the time anyway and kept the graphing as a back up.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989286)

They have legitimate uses, particularly when the calculator is being used for custom programs (and who buys one these days if they don't intend to use the programming features?). It would be really annoying to have to scan through a program one line at a time to find and make a tweak or what if you want to display multiple outputs simultaneously? The large screen combined with programming features is really a winning combination, the graphing tools are just a nice bonus.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989986)

But if we didn't have programmable graphing calculators how would I have kept from going insane from the boredom of High School math? I swear, going over 20 questions of simple math problems on the board, problems I understood and did right the first time so the review was absolutely no value to me, well that would be enough to drive me right out of my mind without TI-83 drug wars or breakout.

Stop thinking of it that way. (3, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988642)

As an educational tool, it doesn't have to be that complicated. Look at the laptop type devices being put out by Leapfrog, V-tech and Fisher Price. All in the $50 range. Adding a larger screen and internet access, might be possible for $75. It depends on what you want it to do and the profit margin expected. My Atari 2600 put some darn good games in 4K. The XO laptop is close to duplicating a full featured laptop for only $200. It is a resounding success. If for profit companies can build on that with a number of educational appliances that cost $75 and down, even better. If OLPC and the XO have a problem it isn't the hardware, it's software designed to allow kids to learn themselves and an inability to market that idea. Like schools in the US, the administration wants control, and they often resent kids learning on their own.

Re:Stop thinking of it that way. (2)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989774)

I think this is a good point. A $75 'educational device' might not really be a general-purpose computer in the way we're familiar with it, and that might be perfectly okay. There seems to be a big assumption that general-purpose PCs are the way to go in the classroom, and to be honest I don't see a lot of evidence of this. It seems like a bit of a leap of faith, really.

Obviously, a general-purpose computer is better than nothing, so I'm not denigrating the OLPC, but that's not to say that the modern PC is the be-all and end-all of educational hardware. I think it's entirely possible that more "limited" devices are actually superior.

I, and many other Slashdotters I'm sure, cut my teeth on the Apple II series in school; I always thought these were a good design and I've heard quite a few teachers speak nostalgically of them. You put in a disk for the program you wanted to run, you turned it on. When you were done, you saved and turned it off. If a kid messed it up, all you had to remember was the "three finger salute" of Ctrl-Apple-Rst. The only things you really needed to beat into kids' heads was not to try and pull a disk out of the drive when the access light was on. I've always wondered if something similar might not be good for modern classrooms -- put each program on a bootable CD, and don't install a hard drive in the machine. Boot the computer from the disc you want, saving all your data to a USB key; when you're done, turn it off.

The PC basically killed off all the alternative paradigms because it's "good enough" for almost everything, and economies of scale made it cheap. But now I think we're getting to the point where we can use the manufacturing expertise gained through PC development to produce alternative devices once more, and get back some of the diversity in hardware that's been lost.

Unable to imagine does not create anything (3, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988736)

OLPC is good enough to access content like MIT Open Courseware. Expanding access to content like that from what was previously available to these kids is just amazing.

There are a lot of brilliant people in the world who, for lack of access to good education cannot realise their potential. I would prefer that your lack of imagination not prevent them. We are going to need them.

I would also prefer that the next billion people to come online in the digital age not be burning 300 watts each to support Microsoft bloatware. That's a lot of carbon for no real benefit.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (2, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988752)

Or why not just make sure they all get their vaccinations, a good supply of pencils and paper, and an interesting book to read from the nearby library each week? Doubt that would cost more than $75 per child in desperately-poor Thirdworldistan.

E. F. Schumacher wrote an interesting and provocative book (Small is Beautiful) several decades ago about the routinely inappropriate "help" the First World often sends the Third. To grossly oversummarize, it's like we see someone painfully hauling a load of firewood down a dirt road in a poor country and decide to "help" by giving him a hybrid-electric pick-up truck. Of course, he has no good supply of gas, no way to maintain such a complex machine, no good roads to drive it on...and a mule would be a lot more appropriate and helpful.

It's hard not to wonder whether a focus on supplying cheap laptop computers is fully appropriate for kids whose principal problems probably lie more in the areas of crappy public hygiene, rampant preventable infectious childhood disease, AIDS and its consequences (e.g. becoming an orphan), civil unrest and insecurity, not to mention oppression in many places, and their parents not being able to get decent jobs close to home.

Maybe a Linux laptop at the right price point is a silver bullet for some of this nasty stuff, somehow, although I don't quite see it. I guess we'll find out.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (2, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989090)

Or why not just make sure they all get their vaccinations, a good supply of pencils and paper, and an interesting book to read from the nearby library each week? Doubt that would cost more than $75 per child in desperately-poor Thirdworldistan.


$75 per child might get you a school library of a couple thousand books, but wouldn't you rather give them all of Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg?

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (3, Insightful)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989300)

Fact is giving cheap computers to "poor" nations does not make them any happier, healthier, richer, or more educated. It just means that they have cheap computers. It may change the social dynamics around a bit, like reading a book at home on a computer instead of at the local school or library. It may even mean that somebody may get to work for IBM as a programmer through one of their off-shoring initiatives.

At any rate, since computers started to become superfluous in the West I have NOT noticed that people became more educated, happy, employed, etc (I'm sure those ppl still making big $$$ in the IT field would disagree). Yep, a shift in jobs for some people, and easier to do some second-hand research; but overall (unless you are a Gamer) I wouldn't say it has had a dramatic effect (for the better) on people's lives.

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly in favour of cheap computers, especially for poor people, but people should realize WHY they want this, and the reality of their ideals.

Re:If we're going to go that cheap... (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989290)

How about we don't let your failure of imagination hold the rest of us back, hmm? If that's all the same with you?

I For One... (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988080)

Love the smell of Vapor in the morning.

That's "vapour", for my fellow POHMs.

Giver Her a Little More Credit (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988294)

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:Giver Her a Little More Credit (1, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988772)

Agree, Mary Lou is one of the persons who I believe deserve a slashdot interview. She and that cryptologist lady.

Elonka Dunn? (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989022)

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.

Re:Giver Her a Little More Credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989382)

Hedy Lamarr?

Re:Giver Her a Little More Credit (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989940)

King Harald, is that you?

Re:Giver Her a Little More Credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989952)

>Hedy Lamarr?
She's dead, Jim.

Re:I For One... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989860)

I think you mean Vapir [gotvape.com] because she must be smoking something....

Re:I For One... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989926)

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.

Fyunch-click (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988094)

It's probably sad that when I saw "Crazy Eddie" my first thought was of Moties.

Re:Fyunch-click (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988228)

I just read that book last week and thought the same thing. I don't think you have a problem.

Re:Fyunch-click (1)

rickhale (90839) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988338)

My first thought was of Moties, too.

Re:Fyunch-click (1)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988466)

Uh...there is another meaning than the Motie with the odd judgment? Amazing.

Re:Fyunch-click - You fixed *what*? (2, Insightful)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988572)

When I saw the quote, I thought about the scene in the book where the Moti Engineer took apart and put together Lady Sally's palmtop computer which was thought to be impossible because everything was one single unit.

To hit $75 for a laptop, the same technology will be required.

myke

What they don't seem to realise is... (2, Insightful)

asuffield (111848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989464)

Crazy Eddie is supposed to fail.

Re:Fyunch-click (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21990098)

For those of us who grew up watching the superstations on television, "Crazy Eddie" has a different meaning. He was this guy who did cheap local commercials for his appliance/electronics superstores.

"Crazy Eddie - his prices are...INSANE!"

$200, $150, $75...where does it end? (5, Funny)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988122)

We already have the $10 laptop [wikipedia.org]

Re:$200, $150, $75...where does it end? (5, Funny)

gall0ws (902335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988182)

I installed Debian on that. The last stable release.

Re:$200, $150, $75...where does it end? (4, Funny)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988300)

We already have the $10 laptop [wikipedia.org]
The best part: Yes, it runs Linux! [genbeta.com]

Re:$200, $150, $75...where does it end? (1)

Bloater (12932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989914)

You lose your cool points. That was CGI. Show me a real one and you can have your points back.

Get this: the $7 laptop! (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989618)

Kinda like Seven-Minute Abs [imsdb.com] .

...and (2, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988176)

...and it will end-up being $175 instead. We all saw how the $100 laptop dry run went.

No, $141! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988652)

The announced final price for the XO Laptop is $188.

If the same inflation figure is used, the $75 will rise to $141.

Which is still pretty amazing.

Re:No, $141! (2, Funny)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989264)

And if you measure in Euros, it'll be 60 of 'em before and after.

Re:...and (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988870)

It's truly an amazing world we live in, where we complain about a portable 2,000 cm^3 device that contains hundreds of millions of precisely-arranged components, can perform millions of calculations per second, and store billions of bits of data... because it costs $188 instead of $100.

Such a device would have been pure fantasy even 10 years ago, at any cost, and yet now we scoff that they couldn't get the cost down low enough.

I'm not attacking your point (which is that promised prices may not be delivered)... rather just marveling at how advanced our tech has become.

Re:...and (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989294)

My IBM XT was waaaay bulkier, waaaay slower and still cost $8000.

Re:...and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989406)

The $100 price will be reached. OLPC always said it depended on volume. Intel has been
trying to undercut OLPC in the market, and that I assume is why the price is what it is.
It is still the least expensive laptop in the world.

Does school OS have anything to do with home OS? (3, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988184)

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.

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (2, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988534)

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.

Why not, Linux is widely recognised as having better specs.

Better specs don't sell though. Marketing and subsequent mindshare do (case in point : Windows - various incarnations).

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988636)

Ahhh, if these kids parents could afford laptops with better specs, I doubt they'd be getting OLPCs in the first place.

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988648)

Using more than one OS ensures that they'll learn general skills instead of just learning how to use app ABC on OS XYZ.

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989390)

Yeah, some people have learned how to use one-button and two-button mice!

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (1)

xzvf (924443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989246)

When I was a kid my school has TRS-80 model III's and my family bought me an Atari 800. The Apple II was over $1000 then.

Re:Does school OS have anything to do with home OS (1)

slashdotmsiriv (922939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989768)

First, these are laptops we are talking about. Students can take them home. As long as the more powerfull Windows machines
don't have anything more to offer than the OLPC, students would prefer to work on them. The truth is that powerful Vista machines have nothing more to offer with respect to web browsing and editor capabilities, children would stick with the same machine they use at school just because of the convenience of not having to copy their work from the OLPC to the windows machine and vice versa.

Second, a large portion of the market for OLPC consists of low income families. They don't have the means to buy extra home computing devices
with better specs.

A major roadblock (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988192)

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:A major roadblock (2, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988700)

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...

But what about the fish? (2, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988194)

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?

Re:But what about the fish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989056)

Getting them on the internet means they can learn how to do anything, including how to fish. [takemefishing.org]

Let's do the math (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988196)

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 look at the specs again (1, Interesting)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988934)

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. We have a few decades of experience to watching M$ products and services become less and less competitive. Preserving the monopoly is the only way to keep the cult going.

Further, if Linux takes over the new market, or even breaks into it, the old markets will want it, too. We're almost there, with manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo almost offering Linux pre-installed.

The rich get richer, etc. (0)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988310)

This first occurred to me when the story first broke regarding the CTO of OLPC leaving to form her own company...

Doesn't any specific knowledge she has regarding the engineering of an inexpensive laptop targeted towards students in emerging economies belong to OLPC?

There have been many discussions on /. regarding non-compete agreements, IP, works-for-hire, etc. At the very least anything we wage slaves do for the company belongs to the company. At the most, companies try to claim ownership of stuff we do on our own time with our own resources, in addition to stuff we may have done before coming to the company or may do after leaving.

It would seem to me Mary Lou is free to take to her new company any general experience and knowledge she has, but in this case the new company is entirely based on IP that belongs to OLPC.

Or is this another standard that only applies to us wage slaves? What would happen to any of us if we so boldly left our employers to start a new company in direct competition?

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988486)

OLPC is non-profit. You can't really leave and get into "competition" with an charitable organization.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988646)

OLPC is non-profit. You can't really leave and get into "competition" with an charitable organization.

It's up to the OLPC folks if they wish to make an issue of it, but yes, you can get into "competition" with a charitable organization. 1) You can compete for donors, if donations are part of your 'business' model. (Not in the for-profit sense of a model of how to turn some resource into profit, but the model of how you're going to get done what it is you are trying to get done.)

2) You can compete for IP. If OLPC has patents on any novel hardware developments, perhaps part of the plan is to license those patents to futher the charitable goals.

3) Didn't we just have a story about Intel being in competition with OLPC for contracts? Granted, that case is for-profit Intel vs non-profit OLPC, where as I gather this new company is also non-profit.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

Diss Champ (934796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988494)

As far as I can see, her company is NOT in direct competition- the OLPC folks seem to be treating selling to the developed world to be something to be avoided; even this buy two get one program was set to end at the end of last year so they could focus their efforts on the undeveloped places. She however wants to sell to people with money. I'd think the two companies would get along rather well with each other, and be relatively happy information, and even where possible coordinate on components to drive down costs, to the benefit of both.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988510)

Were the OLPC peeps paid? If not, then I can't imagine any of them even reading a NCA without riotously laughing first.

Wasn't it an offshoot of academia, or at least headed by an academic? If so, then they aren't the type to use NCAs.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988546)

A friend of mine did that.

Well, he and a bunch of others were made redundant by the company (company A) they worked for. So they decided to do it themselves (at company B) and do it better. He's worth a few million now IIRC.

What happened was they bought in a solution from another competitor (company C) and acted as a reseller to get the company off the ground whilst they wrote their own software. Company A then accused them of theft of code and used the fact that Company B were selling software so soon after startup as "proof". FACT/FAST and the police presumed guilt and immediately impounded all their equipment. My friend spent some time in a cells at a police station. There were various court appearances.

After about a year it was all cleared up, but they went through hell first.
And this didn't even involve and patent disputes.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

shadylookin (1209874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988558)

Since the XO was based upon Open source software they can't make her sign any agreements not to use the software. About the only thing they could stop her from doing would be using their hardware, and since she intents to make laptops even cheaper she probably won't be using any of that knowledge. Well that's my non-legal background guess anyway.

That's answered in the Groklaw interview (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988574)

Q: I understood that you have one or more patents in screen technology which are in the XO laptop. Are you taking those patents with you for licensing, or do they belong to OLPC? Can you clarify the patent situation for us?

Mary Lou Jepsen: When we eventually filed papers to make the OLPC 501c6 real, we also then started hiring (in early 2006). I then assigned the inventions that I had both already made and would make to OLPC. Pixel Qi -- my new company -- is now licensing my inventions from OLPC. This isn't an OLPC employee benefit, it's a deal I created with OLPC and Pixel Qi, and the benefit will go to OLPC and to the children of the world, lowering the price of the laptops, and thus allowing more kids to get laptops.

if the OLPC were subject to market forces .... (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988576)

A possible failing is that Negroponte was operating outside of the market. Who knows his costs? He is soliciting governments directly, not competative bidding.

His intentions are noble, but the execution is questionable.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (4, Informative)

glop (181086) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988588)

You might want to read the Groklaw interview. It is said there that her new company is licensing the tech she developed for OLPC from OLPC.

As you see, your post is plain wrong and very unfair to Ms. Jepsen. Too bad it was modded +3...

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988730)

You might want to read the Groklaw interview. It is said there that her new company is licensing the tech she developed for OLPC from OLPC.

/. poster RTFA? Unpossible!

But it does fall in line with my past modding experience. When I try for informative/insightful I usually get modded 'funny'. When I try for funny I get 'troll' or 'flamebait'.

And apparently when I talk out of my arse without the facts, I get 'interesting'. Go figure.

Re:The rich get richer, etc. (2, Informative)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988830)

But you fail to see that whatever computer she creates may not compete with the OLPC at all. The OLPC is aimed at underdeveloped countries and is a non for profit effort, whereas this new computer could be aimed at the general American market (open market). They are completely two different kinds of markets, and it can even be argued that one of them is not a market.

the question is... (0, Flamebait)

Bored MPA (1202335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988388)

Is this legit, or is their company funded by folks trying to undercut OLPC? Either way, vaporware is a very good strategy to get folks not to buy OLPC and to slow down the development (heh) of that market.

I haven't had my coffee, but this sort of announcement is also great cover for players (intel?, ms?) who want more time to boost alternatives to OLPC with more vendor/tech lock-in. Buyers/countries will consider waiting even longer to make a decision (the buyers aren't in a rush) based on lower price and new tech expectations.

EAT SHIT FAGGOTS!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988436)

Linux is garbage. Deal!

AWESOME IDEA (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988454)

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?

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988984)

... i would buy a BEOWULF CLUSTER of these! :D

Re:AWESOME IDEA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21990012)

That's right. That's - that's good. That's good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with a $50 laptop. Then you're in trouble, huh?

Exclusive NEWS (1)

zukinux (1094199) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988472)

(2 weeks from now) : Formet OLPC CTO Aims to Create a $74 Laptop.!!!

People learning linux (0, Offtopic)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988474)

I think MS should rather fear something else being learned by the new generations. [losingcontext.com]

Re:People learning linux (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988936)

Given that all of those laptops can run Windows, and also many of them probably have the Mac version of Office installed (ever bought a fresh copy of Windows/Office not attached to hardware? Costs a bit much, and gives Microsoft quite a bit more money on a per-computer basis than the bulk licenses), I don't think Microsoft has much to worry about. It does bother me a little that some schools mandate computer types, and that's coming from someone who uses Windows reluctantly for school/work and boots into Linux for everything else.

Crazy Eddie? (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988480)

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...

Microsoft won't be allowing dual boot (4, Informative)

TropicalCoder (898500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988606)

Re:Microsoft won't be allowing dual boot (2, Interesting)

Bralkein (685733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989194)

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 be limited field trials in January 2008 of Windows XP for One Laptop per Childs XO laptop. Microsoft recommends contacting the company directly for any further updates.

Yikes! To me, this reads like Microsoft aren't planning to introduce Windows as a dual-boot option, rather they intend to replace Linux entirely on the XO machines. How are they going to do this without increasing the cost of the laptop? I suppose they would have to give the OS away for free, but what are the legal implications here? I recall hearing that it can be illegal to drop your price to zero in order to flush out a competitor. If this is the case, then I wonder if this isn't a rather risky move for MS, especially considering their history of lawsuits for anti-competitive practices.

Completely Offtopic (1)

prichardson (603676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988634)

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 with closing the link in the middle of a quote? Is this a slashdot problem or a problem with my rendering engine?

I'm using Safari Version 3.0.4 (5523.10.6)

Re:Completely Offtopic (1)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989902)

A little of both. It's a malformed link coupled with the Safari Webkit application framework.

How about a DS? (5, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988662)

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:How about a DS? (2, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989092)

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.

Re:How about a DS? (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989460)

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 any good. And last time I checked, it is better to separate business interests from educational interests.

Re:How about a DS? (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#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? (4, Insightful)

Kuukai (865890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989872)

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.

regular laptops plunging too (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988728)

I saw an ad in the paper this morning; 3GB core, 300GB disk, wifi, DVD burner, webcam $999.

2GB/160GB $549

Too Good an Opportunity (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988766)

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 Linux ala OLPC.
  2. Build a prototype.
  3. Make a deal with a third world country to tentatively pre-order it.
  4. Use connections to OLPC project and capitalize on the press OLPC gets for good work to get this hyped in the news.
  5. Wait for MS to try to pay you off to use Windows and/or pay off the third world country to require Windows.
  6. Profit! ...err I mean ship the devices with Windows to be used as glorified calculators while splitting the profits between the new company and the third world country.
  7. Wait for MS marketing to offer you money to tell everyone how great they are doing... then take it and profit some more.
  8. Goto 1.

TV out? (1)

alohatiger (313873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988788)

Why not make a cheap computer that can be plugged into a TV? I'm sure there's a large population of children in the world who have TV but no computer.

blah (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988794)

from what i remember, there were specs that microsoft wanted negroponte to change to make it compatible with windows xp. and he, in fact, pointed out that he wasn't going to change the flash drive capacity by adding an ssd slot to satisfy profit http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/06/2049201 [slashdot.org] -makers like microsoft weren't going to really help out the true purpose of the laptop.

suddenly this answer to solving lack of computers in poor countries is going to be compatible with commercial OSs? does it really matter? I'm not a big linux fanboy, hell, if i took the fanboy label, i would prefer the bsd fanboy. with that said, I thought the purpose of this laptop is to be an inexpensive communication device - does it matter what OS it runs on? from what i understand, Mozilla contributed to this project - for free - a browser that can be compiled for most OSs. now microsoft is going to be operating system number 2 on this laptop - charging a small price.

ok , so im ranting now - but i guess my point is that negroponte has forgotten the purpose of this project, if he wants to sell a laptop that has 2 OSs competing against each other (by default?) I can see countries' reasons for war changing from religion to operating system preference. bleh.

7-Minute Abs (2, Funny)

viner! (212481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988978)

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, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk.
Ted Stroehmann: You guarantee it? That's -- how do you do that?
Hitchhiker: If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from "A" to "B".
Ted Stroehmann: That's right. That's -- that's good. That's good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you're in trouble, huh?
[Hitchhiker convulses]
Hitchhiker: No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody's comin' up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won't even get your heart goin, not even a mouse on a wheel.
Ted Stroehmann: That -- good point.
Hitchhiker: 7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 doors. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.
Ted Stroehmann: Why?
Hitchhiker: 'Cause you're fuckin' fired!
http://imdb.com/title/tt0129387/ [imdb.com]

World Class Machine (2, Insightful)

hhawk (26580) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989158)

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.

The Price is Right (1)

openldev (925511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989778)

This is a like a sick PR version of the Price is Right ... I bid $1 Drew!

Marginal Cost (1)

colmore (56499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989948)

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.
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