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OLPC CTO Quits to Commercialize OLPC Technology 168

Posted by Zonk
from the there's-more-money-in-money-than-in-charity dept.
theodp writes "The One Laptop Per Child project suffered a blow Monday, with CTO Mary Lou Jepsen quitting the nonprofit to start a for-profit company to commercialize technology she invented with OLPC (the first of Jepsen's pending OLPC patents was published by the USPTO on Dec. 13). The OLPC project halted consumer sales of the cheap laptop at the end of December."
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OLPC CTO Quits to Commercialize OLPC Technology

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  • by niceone (992278) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:17PM (#21875026) Journal
    The linked patent may have Jepsen listed as an inventor, but it is assigned to "ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD ASSOCIATION, INC.", so I'm not sure why it's mentioned in the summary. She's can't use that without OLPC's permission.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BeanThere (28381) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:21PM (#21875056)
    It's just you. Seriously, calm down and take a few deep breaths; the sheer awfulness-of-it-all you're seeing everywhere doesn't really exist. It costs $200 because that's about what it costs to build such things with current tech, that's all; it's not such a bad price for what you get; licensing and commercialising the technologies is not evil - on the contrary, by increasing distribution and scale, they can make it cheaper (and there is free market competition now from AO Asus and Intel to keep the prices low) - cheap simple computers selling in large numbers WILL help the 3rd world. Last I checked they had quite a few orders from 3rd-world countries, which ARE going to benefit (basically all (non-corrupt) free-market trade is mutually beneficial - if they weren't going to benefit, even at the current price, they wouldn't have bought it). I live in a 3rd-world country. Trust me; any cheap computer is better than no computer at all (and NO, 3rd-world countries are not "just going to make their own" - the reason they're 3rd-world is that they don't (yet) have it in them to just start making things like computers).
  • by jrincayc (22260) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:24PM (#21875074) Homepage
    Here are some links:
    http://olpc.osuosl.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1414 [osuosl.org]
    http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/olpc-open/2007-December/thread.html#459 [laptop.org]

    The general reason given for ending G1G1 was that it was a strain on the OLPC volunteers. See especially Nicole Lee's post http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/olpc-open/2007-December/000474.html [laptop.org]

  • too rugged? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @01:15PM (#21875442) Homepage Journal
    There's a dearth of rugged laptops on the market, just a few and pretty expensive. On the other hand, you can get any number of delicate laptops that commonly turn to junkage within a short time. I think this project has really pushed the envelope and embarrassed other manufacturers into considering similar better/cheaper/tougher machines. It hasn't hurt, put it that way. There are different market segments based on needs and price, we need them all, there is no one sits fits everyone machine. You want expensive and delicate, you can get that right now, they'll gladly sell you one. You want real tough and cheap,until this thing came around, not so much doable. And one of the main points with laptops are they are portable, even *gasp*, the theoretical ability to use one out in the big room with the yellow light and blue wall paint. Regular laptops are pretty sucky there, the screens disappear, you have to worry about the weather, the battery life sucks with all of them, this one however claims it is actually usable out in the light and also has a few different self powered options, meaning long range "battery life" away from a wall plug..

        I know I have been holding out getting another laptop, after having three of them, because I just can't use them outside. If I am inside, well duh I have a desktop with a big screen. and I don't hang out in starbucks and so on, but I am an outside worker and could actually use one now and then. But it has to be dust and moisture proof/resistant and be able to take some knocks beyond the normal lightweight commuter train ride and sitting at a cafe or conference table. Hopefully this better screen tech and "ruggedness" will induce other builders into making adult sized versions without them costing more than semi-decent used cars.
  • Re:It Makes Sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turgid (580780) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @02:33PM (#21876044) Journal

    Frankly, I'm surprised someone hasn't commercialized the OLPC hardware/software combination yet.

    Look at what intel and Microsoft have already tried to do to the OLPC. Do you think they'd stand back and let anyone else have a go?

  • Re:Huh ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grcumb (781340) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:41PM (#21876956) Homepage Journal

    She was responsible for designing the display, which, depending on who you ask, is either really novel and cutting edge, or a substandard compromise to modern display design. Personally, the display is not anything I would want for standard laptop-like use.

    Don't be so quick to disparage it. While I'll be the first to admit that it's not really necessary for typical indoor use, the extremely high definition and brilliant contrast make it possible to use a portable device in scenarios you might not have considered before.

    I did a month-long evaluation of an OLPC B2 prototype, and the thing that appealed to me most was the fact that it made it possible (or at least conceivable) to have constant access to information at all times, without worrying about rain, sun or shade, accidents, dust and most other kinds of things that make laptop-users cringe. The display played no small part in this.

    I live in what the UN designates as a Least Developed Country, so I'll admit that my needs are special. But I can think of dozens of ways in which a device with similar attributes to the OLPC would be useful to inhabitants of the world's most developed cities. Their low cost and robustness, combined with their suitability to the task, finally give us true commoditisation of information technology.

    This dual-mode screen is really impressive when you see it at work. It is truly innovative because it makes new uses of computers possible.

  • Price and volume (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @05:20PM (#21877196) Homepage Journal
    If the OLPC is ever to reach the US$ 100 target price (even if we give it the adjustment for a shrinking dollar) it is via production volume of its key parts. Making them available to other companies via a for-profit seems to be the best way to do it.

    It was always pretty obvious to me that, even if the XO itself does not bring a huge change, its technologies and its "less is enough" approach are bound to make a massive change to a very monotonous market.

    Let's hope it's the next Apple II ;-)
  • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:57PM (#21879156) Homepage Journal
    The general reason given for ending G1G1 was that it was a strain on the OLPC volunteers.

    This makes a lot of sense. Negroponte and the others have been repeatedly emphasizing to their critics that they're not a computer vendor; they're an educational organization. Negroponte is a professor at MIT, not a corporate CEO. They haven't (to my knowledge) come right out and said it, but I expect that they're hoping for some startup companies that can take away the pressure to market this thing. This seems to be exactly what's happening in this case. The patent is staying with the OLPC crowd, and presumably they're happy to license it to someone who wants to work on commercial sales (and give back part of their profits as license fees).

    If the OLPC crowd had gone with commercial sales, it would have just bogged them down by sucking them full time into marketing and support. The educational project would have fallen by the wayside in the rush for profits. And they'd have had no public support in their inevitable battle with Intel and Microsoft. This way, they can continue with their educational goals, and let others fight the market battle with the giant monopolists. And if it takes off commercially, maybe they can get a share of the profits.
  • Re:Initial Reaction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:02PM (#21879196) Homepage Journal
    My initial reaction was "What the hell, you theiving bastard stealing technology from a non-profit organization" ...

    So have you read the news that the patent in question is owned by the OLPC project? The report that she's stealing something seems to be pure calumny. If anything, she's working on developing the parallel retail marketing that so many people have been suggesting. And if successful, her company will be paying license royalties to the OLPC project.

    Does anyone know differently? It'd be interesting to get some more accurate information than what we've read here so far.

  • Re:It Makes Sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:58AM (#21879768)

    from CISC to RISC processors


    That's 1990s stuff. The whole CISC vs RISC thing has been completely obsoleted by modern chip designs, which render the distinction meaningless. RISC was a solution to a problem that no longer exists (and CISC was nothing more than the lack of a solution).

    You can build CPUs fast or low power. For ia32 CPUs built fast, see Intel and AMD. For them built low-power, see Via. You can buy laptops with Via chips in them, and they have considerably more battery life. Don't whine when you find out that they won't run Oblivion, or Vista, because they aren't that fast.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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