It’s been some time since I last touched base with Qualcomm, but not much has changed since May. Qualcomm is still working with the same 5.7″ screen, and they are still on schedule to meet the current release date of some time this year.
I decided to post this update because while Mirasol may have stood still for the past 5 months, the tablet and ebook reader markets have changed drastically.
Unfortunately for Qualcomm, it looks like working out the bugs in the production issues simply took too long. The ereader market and LCD tablet have both grown large enough and cheap enough that I’m not sure there’s a market for Mirasol anymore.
Just to refresh your memory, Mirasol is a screen tech being developed by Qualcomm. It’s color, low power, and visible in sunlight. And that means that Mirasol combines some of the better aspects of E-ink with the color of LCD. It doesn’t have quite as good color as LCD but Mirasol does have better color than E-ink’s color screen.
Unfortunately, Mirasol is also going to be expensive when it is first released. My estimate is that a Mirasol screen will add at least $100 to $200 to the cost of a tablet. We now have good $200 Android tablets with better color quality and we have a $109 Kindle which has more battery life than I know what to do with. Price is clearly going to be a concern, and battery life isn’t going to be the bonus that you might assume. Do you really want to pay an extra $200 for such a small screen? I would – if the Mirasol screen measured 10″. But not on something as small as 5.7″.
And then there’s the much hyped competition. Amazon has come out with a killer tablet and they’re going to attract a lot of consumers. (I wonder if the B&N NookColor Acclaim is going to have a Mirasol screen?)
Mirasol is also about to lose out on one of its advantages: color. Ectaco is already working on a 9.7″ academic ereader with a color E-ink screen and it’s going to be out this year. It’s going to cost $350 and while it’s not terribly fast (video) it does still encroach on one of the few things that makes Mirasol special.
At this point the upcoming Mirasol device is going to need to be pretty spectacular or it will be a resounding thud. IMO, Qualcomm is going to need a pretty spectacular partner, as well. The one that I know of (Pocketbook) is a lightweight – in the all-important US market. Qualcomm is going to need one or more heavyweights showing off a Mirasol device.
Would you buy an expensive first run device from a no name company? Heck, do you plan to buy one at all?