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Reports of the Death of Pixel Qi Were Somewhat Exaggerated

sol computer pixel qi usb monitor 2There’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.

olpc xo-4

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.

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Kannon January 12, 2015 um 2:20 pm

Hey Nate, thanks for posting on the state of transflective display technology. Transflective screens (which were perfect for e-readers, as you know) appear to be making a tremendous comeback in 2015, but not in the market that we wanted.

Many Chinese manufacturers and Sony included the technology in wearable tech. The Sony SmartWatch 3 uses a transflective display. And several lines of LinkIt OS smartwatch, based on MediaTek’s Aster chipset also include transflective displays.

I’ve still got my fingers crossed that a Chinese e-reader company will eventually introduce a transflective Android tablet, with an IR touchscreen.

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Stephan December 22, 2015 um 3:41 pm

The tech is not dead but who can improve the tech. The real niche isn’t into 7″ or 10″ and low resolution. If you have severe photophobia like me or other eyes troubles you know that this is a pain to read a lot on a 10″ even without light. I’m tired of it.

There are many other tech, e ink and all the transflective screens. Any LCD can hacked by removing everything in the monitor, so you see cross the screen. And soon it will be the only solution if there are no freakin 14″ (or more) monitor with at least 1366×1024 pixels. It’s not a shame, it just sucks. All this forced me to learn a bit of electronic and soldering. I don’t need people who sell 700$ a 10″ screen. It’s a shame.

Marc January 26, 2016 um 1:43 pm

I have been using a Pixel QI LCD in my modified laptop and also an home built Android tablet.

The only thing I don’t understand is why this technology did not make it into every smartphone on the planet. I struggle every time I use my cellphone under sunlight.

I’m writing this comment with my modified laptop under direct sunlight ( It’s actually better than in the shade)

Simon July 7, 2017 um 5:59 am

Marc – A little late here but what laptop are you using? My brother & I have an old modified Dell in use as a 'sun book', but it’s really beginning to creak even with a pared down Windows 7 installation.
Have you found anything suitable (and reasonably modern) that fits the form factor? We still have two Pixel QI screens that want to find machines to sit in and be enjoyed by the pool.

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