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OLPC CTO Quits to Commercialize OLPC Technology 168

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 TimHunter ( 174406 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:00PM (#21874504)

    The OLPC project halted consumer sales of the cheap laptop at the end of November.
    Erm, no. The quoted story is datelined November 25. It's January now, folks. The G1G1 program was extended until yesterday [].
  • Re:Huh ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:05PM (#21874546) Journal
    Not that I RTFA or anything.

    You got that right. FTA: "I will continue to give OLPC product at cost, while providing commercial entities products they would like at a profit," Jepsen wrote in an e-mail.

    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.

    The OLPC has their low-power display, and now she can go off and make the technology available to other markets instead of keeping it exclusive to the OLPC. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

    Dan East
  • Not Necessarily Bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by lansirill ( 244071 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:16PM (#21874644)
    She'll continue to consult with OLPC and provide product to OLPC at cost. I think, I may be overlooking something, I'd love to see all of the OLPC tech released into the commercial market this way. It could help drive the manufacturing costs down and get the XO back down to the original $100US per unit goal. I participated in the Buy One, Get One program because I thought the hardware sounded damn handy, despite being configured for children.

    I am all for anything that brings us closer to a similar commercial unit at a reasonable price as long as it isn't directly detrimental to the OLPC project. This does seem like this could go in a similar direction to the Classmate PC, but that would be the decision of the final manufacturer/distributor and would presumably require price breaks to be competitive. Honestly I haven't looked into the Classmate much, but I may have to spend a little time looking into it. I disliked having Windows on such a project, but I really don't know enough about the hardware to feel strongly about it.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan Ost ( 415913 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @01:29PM (#21875128)
    Have you played with an OLPC yet? These machines are very clearly designed for children, not adults. Nobody with adult size hands could touch type on the keyboard.

    That said, they're great little machines. One of our engineers bought one and we've been playing with it for the last couple of weeks. It's small, light, waterproof, and is quite capable. As far as I can tell, from both the hardware and software standpoints, the OLPC is exactly what they promised that it would be (except it's a little more expensive...hopefully they'll be successful in bringing the price down).
  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @02:00PM (#21875332) Journal
    Actually, it is called "social entrepreneurialism". I was hoping someone who wasn't a bitter troll could refresh my memory on this but it seems you made me dig out some information and look it up.

    An example of this is Athena Partners who sells bottled watter as a non profit to raise funds for breast cancer. Baldev Farms which is one of largest Banana plantations on South India exists to raise funds for The George Foundation's Women's Empowerment program. IT is another prime example of this concept effectively working. There are more if you look around.
  • by Loke the Dog ( 1054294 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @02:00PM (#21875336)
    Europe is a net exporter of food.

    Please people, can't you atleast study the basic isses of poverty and starvation based on facts rather than just having strong opinions based on assumptions? The info is on wikipedia, if you can't be bothered to even read wikipedia, you're not entitled to an opinion!
  • by FailedTheTuringTest ( 937776 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @02:12PM (#21875422)

    Your ass is correct. In 2006, the USA spent $23.5 billion [] on official development assistance, and $100 billion [] on the war in Iraq. (Iraq is currently the largest recipient of American aid, and one could debate whether that portion of the aid budget should actually be counted as part of the cost of the war. Before the Iraq war, the largest recipient of aid was Israel.)

  • by slamb ( 119285 ) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:42PM (#21876100) Homepage

    Those things ought to be in bubble-packs at the local drugstore, alongside the cheap calculators, electronic dictionaries, and other low end electronics. This wouldn't stroke Negroponte's ego, but it would get the things out there in volume. Soon enough, they'd be available all over the world, purely on price.

    They're doing pretty well on volume now. They have a brand-new factory, and last month they planned to ship 150,000, then 80,000-100,000 every month after (source []).

    Where are they going? I just did a bit of hunting. Uruguay ordered 100,000 units(see wiki []) and Peru ordered 260,000 (see this post, near bottom []). According to the "country news" section, Mexico's also placed some order; I think 100,000 is the minimum order size. 150,000 to 170,000 individual G1G1 orders and 15,000 for Birmingham, Alabama, for a total of around 400,000 G1G1 laptops (see interview []), so I believe they have solid orders for 800,000 laptops.

    Hopefully when they've had success with those 800,000, the other countries that originally intended to be part of the launch will get back on the bandwagon. So while I'm not a manufacturing expert, I would guess the difference between 1 million/year and 2 million/year isn't going to hugely affect the cost.

  • by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:26PM (#21876404)

    The OLPC was a marketing ploy and nothing else.
    To what? Sell cheap laptops to enhance education? That's what they're doing so what's the problem?

    It's not a donation, the countries it's being targeted at are buying these laptops. If anything it's an education scheme to improve a countries citizen's knowledge. It's going to take 10 maybe 15 years before we actually know if it worked of course.

    The Third World doesn't need laptops. It needs rice and medicine.
    Since they're the ones purchasing the laptops I don't think it is appropriate for you or me to tell them what they need.

    Western aid to the third world has done nothing but breed more people who cannot take care of themselves
    The OLPC isn't a donation. The countries are purchasing these PCs. Western aid is off topic.
  • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:24PM (#21879016)
    a commenter claiming to be Mary Lou Jepsen has responded to a similar story on

    Hi all,

    Thanks for all the interest in my new company!

    some comments:

    1) My new company *is* trying to explore the concepts of open hardware - and trying to figure out the right way to do it. I've been asking many people for advice on this: Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen, Larry Lessig, John Gilmore, Brewster Kahle, etc. We are struggling through it. Hardware is different from software - but how can we open it up?

    2) Doesn't anyone want a 50 Euro laptop? I do. I'm not talking about designing last years product for next year. Other people can do that..I plan to continue to innovate and invent.

    3) Finally: I'm not taking my inventions from OLPC - I'm licensing them from OLPC. Why: An inventor has a good chance of improving the price/performance of her inventions. Why restrict her access to them if our goal is lower cost computing for the developing world?

    Posted by: Mary Lou Jepsen on January 01, 2008
  • by Geof ( 153857 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:20AM (#21879574) Homepage
    From what I heard, you're on the right track. Jepsen contributed her display patents [] to OLPC. She did a lot of important work for them. Criticizing her for going into business seems completely unfair. OLPC is a charitable organization, and is not permitted to compete in the market. For these technologies to take advantage of the market, they need to be developed by a business. This could be very good for them.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein