TR: So how does your laptop stack up against the others that are beginning to compete with it? Intel’s Classmate or the Asus Eee …
WB: I don’t think much of the Classmate as a machine. I think it consumes too much power; I think it’s got a crappy display that’s not suitable for reading. A lot of the kids, this is their only book. And to read on a display that’s designed for a portable DVD player is not exactly useful.
TR: This will be kids’ only book?
WB: You go to even a relatively wealthy country like Nigeria. You go to one of the major cities there, Abuja, which is the capital city, their model city. And you go to a school in Abuja, and they’ve got 80 kids in a classroom and two or three books for those 80 kids. And if you go outside of Abuja to the countryside, they’re lucky if they have that.
TR: How about the other competitors?
WB: One thing to consider is, what’s the cost of ownership over a five-year lifetime? There are several issues: How do you provide power to the laptop? How much power does the laptop require? What’s the lifetime of the battery system? We designed our battery system to have a 2,000-cycle lifetime, which means that if you cycle through [drain and recharge the battery] once a day, that’s going to last five years. Whereas the typical laptop battery lasts 500 cycle times, so that’s less than a year and a half. And the replacement cost of the battery is, in our case, less than 10 dollars. I don’t know in these other systems, but I would guess that it would be three or four or five or so times that.
But then there’s the other question: So I charge my machine at school, and I take it home. So first of all, how long is the machine going to run on battery charge? How long can I read my book for? Am I a slow reader? So we’ve designed the e‑book to run for–actually, we have a target of close to 24 hours, but we can achieve probably half of that using our current power management scheme.
TR: OLPC’s former chief technology officer, Mary Lou Jepsen, recently started her own company and immediately announced plans to build a $75 laptop. If she succeeds, what will your reaction be?
WB: Hallelujah. Hallelujah.