LONDON – Communications technology company Qualcomm Inc. has bought fabless MEMS display startup Pixtronix Inc. Qualcomm (San Diego, Calif.) confirmed the purchase but did not give any details and
declined to discuss the price. However, reportedly, Qualcomm has paid
between $175 million and $200 million.
Pixtronix (Andover, Mass.) was founded in 2005 by Nesbitt Hagood, chief technology officer. The company has developed a low-cost display technology based on the use of MEMS shutters that it appears would make a useful complement – or better alternative – to Qualcomm's own MEMS-based Mirasol display technology.
The Pixtronix display – called PerfectLight – is based on a MEMS-based digital micro shutter that modulates light from an RGB LED backlight. A high switching speed makes it suitable for applications ranging from full-speed video to e-reader operation and Pixtronix claimed that the display offered greater than 170 degree viewing angles, more than 3,000:1 contrast ratio and 24-bit color depth at one quarter of the power consumption of equivalent size and resolution liquid crystal displays.
The display is not in the market place yet but Pixtronix had developed a 5-inch diagonal display prototype with Chimei Innolux Corp. (CMI), a leading TFT-LCD manufacturer. Pixtronix was also developing a display for Hitachi.
Meanwhile, at about the same time Qualcomm was acquiring Pixtronix, Qualcomm subsidiary Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. announced that a 5.7-inch Mirasol MEMS display technology is used in the Kyobe e-reader. Qualcomm acquired the Mirasol technology when it paid approximately $170 million in cash for the 86 percent of Iridigm Display Corp. that it did not already own.
The Mirasol display is reflective, which means it can save power by making use of ambient light and not requiring a backlight. However, it also means that the display is less bright and visually appealing than an emissive display.
Since its formation Pixtronix had raised more than $53 million in funding from such investors as Atlas Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures and GoldHill Capital. It had about 50 employees and continues to operate as a subsidiary of Qualcomm at present.
Pixtronix entered the Silicon 60, EE Times' list of
emerging startup companies at version 12.5, which is the subject of a
detailed technology and employment digital edition which can be accessed
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Related links and articles:
Pixtronix, CMI make 5-inch MEMS display
Qualcomm MEMS display drives Kyobo e-reader
MEMS Shutter Prototypes Zoom in on Pixtronix