There's a story going around this morning that Pixel Qi, makers of a novel dual-mode LCD screen tech, was officially out of business.
According to my sources, that both is and isn't true.
I just got off the phone with Chris Swanner, owner of Sol Computers. This Calif.-based retailer is one of Pixel Qi's partners (the only one in the US, so far as I know) and he confirmed that Pixel Qi the company was indeed dead.
He also told me that the IP and products were not.
Sol Computers sells several products based on Pixel Qi screens, including a laptop, USB monitor, and a tablet, and this retailer plans to continue to do so. Chris told me that he's not shutting down or finding a different line of products to sell; it's just that in the future Chris will be sourcing Pixel Qi screens from Tripuso Display Solutions. Chris told me that firm
now owns the Pixel Qi IP and will continue to make the screens.
Update: Dave Nelson of Tripuso confirmed the news and clarified his relationship to the Pixel Qi IP in a statement:
The IP is now owned by the original investor of Pixel Qi. We will need to wait for Pixel Qi formal announcement for the details. Tripuso Display Solutions has the right to manufacture Pixel Qi technology by contract. We are still producing the 7” product as we speak and have some availability to stock of 10.1”.
The 7” Pixel Qi product (PQ070WS01) is available and should remain in production for a few more years.
Thanks to a handful of loyal customers, we have been able to keep Pixel Qi technology alive. There is an absolute need for niche markets to have both sunlight readability and low power. The technology may not take over the world but I believe there is enough demand to keep it going for special niche markets.
We can also develop new sizes with adequate volume.
For some reason that name is familiar, although I can't place it. But I do see from LinkedIn that Tripuso was co-founded by Dave Nelson, whose profile says that he was the director of sales at Pixel Qi until April 2013 (he founded Tripuso in December 2013).
It looks to me like Nelson saw the end of Pixel Qi coming in advance, and formed a new startup in order to buy the IP and continue to sell the tech. It's not clear at this time whether Tripuso will be able to continue development of the screen tech, but I would not say that Pixel Qi is completely dead so long as the tech continues to live on with a new owner.
But at this point it is really too early to say.
Originally developed as a spin off from the OLPC project, Pixel Qi was the brainchild of Mary Lou Jepsen. She led the team which developed a unique dual-mode LCD screen tech which offered a screen which gracefully faded from full-color (when viewed inside) to grayscale (when viewed in full sunlight).
The screen doesn't offer particularly good color quality, but it did have relatively low power requirements when it was first developed (I'm not so sure that is true any more) and does offer a unique and workable solution to the sunlight issue.
Pixel Qi's screen tech was originally developed for the OLPC low-cost educational laptop project. This was the only screen used on the XO laptop, and I have no reports that it will not continue to be used on future deployed laptops.
I am of course still waiting for confirmation of that and other details.
I have to say that I was surprised by the change in status of Pixel Qi; I'm tied into a couple different channels which use Pixel Qi screens, and I had not seen any of the usual talk which this type of disruption would cause.
That leads me to think (well, hope) that the disruption will be minimal.
Pixel Qi is the second screen tech company to pass into the great nether in 2014, but it's not quite as thoroughly dead as IRX. Instead, Pixel Qi is mostly dead:
And as anyone can tell you, mostly dead is slightly alive.