Mary Lou Jespen, founding CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project, recently walked off her job at Nicholas Negroponte's charity case. And now she wants to build a $75 version of the laptop that OLPC has struggled to build for $200. But Jespen may be crazy like a fox. She's actually building a business — the insanity! — called Pixel Qi to further her goals.
Pixel Qi will produce the cheap, low-energy, sunlight-readable display used in Negroponte's charity computer for use in laptops, portable devices, and mobile phones. The startup will also use its design expertise to create other low-power computer components. Jespen is the chief inventor of the screens, the most unique component used in Negroponte's OLPC. With the industry increasing focus on low-cost, energy-efficient components, Jespen may have the making of a successful business. However, the entrepreneur and engineer hasn't completely woken from the philanthropic dreams of OLPC. Pixel Qi will continue to provide Negroponte's nonprofit with screens at cost while pursuing its own goal of producing an even cheaper, for-profit laptop. At the same time, it may well make OLPC irrelevant. Greed is good — even when it comes to helping third-world children.