Pixel Qi, the brainchild of former OLPC executive and engineer, Mary Lou Jepsen, announced Sunday that it would be offering retrofit kits for netbooks with its high-efficiency screen technologies. As Dr. Jepsen pointed out in her blog,
One of the reasons I’m personally committed to doing this goes back to my One Laptop per Child experience and girls in a poor rural part of Nigeria...An 11 year old girl decided to open a laptop hospital [and] she eventually recruited girls as young as 5 to help out in the hospital. This group of girls armed with screwdrivers starting taking apart the laptops and reseating the cables. Sometimes they’d change out a screen, or a speaker. They learned about the hardware of their laptops.
The message? "Don't worry, it's so easy to do, swapping out the screens on your netbooks won't even invalidate your warranty!" Well, I don't know about that, but netbooks are cheap and usually come with only a limited warranty anyway, so what's to be gained by this simple "operation," as Dr. Jepsen calls it? Battery life and easier readability. Big time battery life.
I've mentioned Pixel Qi before, as has fellow ZDNet blogger, Jason Perlow. The beauty of these screens is that, for very low costs, Pixel Qi has achieved excellent readability in a variety of lighting situations and reduced power consumption over typical LCDs by as much as 75%. Combined with power improvements from new Intel chipsets on netbooks and you have some very serious battery life.
The screens used on the OLPC XO were designed to be readable in extremely bright outdoor conditions and sip electricity in areas where power was hard to come by. Translating these qualities to a new class of MIDs and netbooks should make for some great new entries into the 1:1 market. In fact, OLPC's greatest legacy will most likely be the technology that resulted from their efforts. Cheap, easy on the eyes, and long battery life? Count me in! DIY screen replacements on my netbooks? Maybe at home, but I'll wait for Pixel Qi's technology to make its way to OEMs for my deployments.