LONDON – Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, Calif.) has said it will focus its manufacturing of Mirasol sunlight-readable displays on a limited set of products and try and license the technology out to other companies.
Speaking in an analysts call to discuss the company's second quarter financial results CEO Paul Jacobs said the company would focus on licensing out the next-generation of Mirasol and commercialize "only certain Mirasol products."
No tangible reason was given for the change of strategy. It is also not clear whether it include the technology of Pixtronix, which it acquired for $175 million in January 2012. Qualcomm paid $170 million in 2004 for startup company Iridigm Display Corp. which originally developed the technology.
The Mirasol display technology was based on a MEMS-like moving structure and produced grey scale by interferometric modulation. The display is reflective rather than using a backlight, providing power saving but muted color, and it was designed into some e-readers.
However, it is reported that Qualcomm had manufacturing problems with the technology that prevented good yields and it was notable that Qualcomm stuck with a smaller size display September 2010.
Mirasol being demoed as an e-reader display in 2009.
No question about superior viewing in full sunlight. However, few people do their reading in full sunlight. I wonder what applications would be appropriate. I can certainly think of one. How about the LED's on gas pumps. I couldn't read anything the other day on a west facing pump.
Qualcomm was late to deploy Mirasol commercially, even if going all in with the fab build late. It is a decent bare e-reader only monochrome display, since no PWM is needed, but video rate? (faster) B&W (devoid of greyscale) is of modest market interest.
Gaining grey scale or full color via PWM modulation of the display mems element kills the possibility of video rate, which is required today in medium and high end tablets (Netflix anyone etc).
Even for Digital Still Cameras, you'd still need a decent update when focusing, and if sunlight readable, you'd need a topside waveguide lighting for use in darkened rooms /low light (which might be low contrast versus LCDs).
For Cameras, I think the PixelQI which has dual modes of backlight and sunlight readable might be better (I forget if PixelQI sunlight readable retains full color but I think I remember this).
For gas station LCDs, sadly most of the advertising LCDs atop the gas pump with the noisy annoying loud ads are still quasi if not full out video, again killing the Mirasol applicability (color with speed requirement & still needing front waveguide lighting for nite time). Here PixelQI might be better again due to dual modes conventional backlit LCD and decent sunlight readability ( separate operating modes )
Mirasol (Iridigm) was in early development /prototype stages back in the mid/late 90s? where it was unique, but smart phones and tablets barely existed, but now requirements of color /?grey scale at video rate for larger markets (possibly only worthy markets) it really does not fit the smartphone nor tablet sectors due to lack of video rate. And for slow update displays, MEMS fabrication is uncompetitive re high costs.
Pixtronix acquisition appears /is intended to remedy the speed issues of Mirasol, with mems shutters modulating color filtered backlights. Still the manufacturing cost might be a little on the high side?
Display innovation is hard stuff due to the relentless advance of LCDs and even the simplicity of LCD fab line conversion to more capable PixelQI. And other innovations constantly hovering about. But best markets are relentlessly demanding of features, that some techs could not keep up with.
For reasons discussed above there is greater rational for PixelQI, but I suspect their marketing is hardly probing their potential winning technical niches just due to trying to compete/ survive in larger markets. PixelQI is not connected to Camera makers, nor recognizing the Gas Station / outdoor video rate signage ( if not wanting LED displays ).
Interesting technical and market dynamics.
My understanding is that the Pixel Qi display is full color when backlit but is monochrome when in reflective (sunlight-readable) mode.
At least it was so the last time i checked. I'll check again.
PixelQi has two technologies out now. The first is as you describe and the latest shows some color in the sun. But with the color comes a sacrifice of a little clarity, in my opinion.
Although it must be noted that both technologies are an incredible step forward compared to pumping up the nits when the sun is shining.
My understanding is it's not sealed against moisture. Nice when you step out of a warm humid building into -30C air. Doesn't save a thing for power since it needs to be front lit for low light as well.
It's about time to end this technology......
The reliability is so poor that cannot marketing.
The display team always do beautiful report but improvement.
MEMs display is cool in term of the idea but unfortunatly, it cannot mass production.
The mechanic structure is not work in display field.