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Was Qualcomm Desperate to Buy Pixtronix (A Replacement for Mirasol)?

A couple months back I brought you the news that Qualcomm had purchase Pixtronix, a Boston based screen tech startup. The sale had been rumored to be worth about $175 million, but no hard details had been released by Qualcomm so I didn’t know the exact terms of the sale.

It’s an old story for me, but it broke again this evening. CNet is reporting on an EETimes story about the sale. Read it if you like, but there’s nothing new. In fact, the EETimes story has less detail than I posted 2 months ago.

I’m not one to rehash an old story, but I have picked up a few new details that I didn’t have at the time. This is a very interesting sale, and I have the impression that Qualcomm really wished that no one had noticed.

First, I’ve learned a little more about the screen technology. It’s actually 2 different screen techs.

Mirasol and Pixtronix are vaguely related because they have some details in common, but one is not a replacement for the other. Mirasol is a complete screen unit and Pixtronix was designed to be added to another screen tech as a way to lower energy usage. I told you in my last post that Pixtronix had several LCD screen makers as manufacturing partners; those partners were going to add Pixtronix’s tech to the screens they produced. (I do not know what will happen now that Qualcomm bought Pixtronix. )

But that’s not all I know. As time went by the sale looked stranger and stranger.

For example, no one at Qualcomm or Pixtronix will talk about the sale – at all. I have a contact at Pixtronix, but I cannot even get him to admit that there is a press embargo. Reticience is one thing, but they have taken it to an extreme.

And here’s the really interesting piece of news. You won’t hear this outside the screen tech industry, but Pixtronix had been up for sale back in 2010. And it wasn’t just for sale; I was told that it was on sale – cheap. I’ve heard that the capital investors were trying to get rid of it; they would have accepted an offer in the $40 million to $50 million range. That was about what they had sunk into it, so they really must have wanted out. But no one wanted to buy the company. (We’re in  recession, so I’m not surprised.)

And then the investors turned around and sold Pixtronix to Qualcomm for an estimated $175 million (or more). Doesn’t that make you wonder exactly how desperate Qualcomm was?  I wonder about it, yes.

The sale is 2 months in the past, and I now suspect that Qualcomm plans to substitute Pixtronix screens for Mirasol screens. My guess is that Mirasol is a bust, and that Qualcomm doesn’t want to cop to the failure. The numerous production delays would tend to support this idea.

But we’ll have to wait for more details to leak before we know for sure.

P.S. There’s fair amount of technical detail over in the other post that I didn’t include here. I didn’t want to repeat myself, but it’s worth a read.

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Qualcomm Bought Pixtronix, a Mirasol Competitor – The Digital Reader January 25, 2012 um 11:16 pm

[…] New details have emerged a couple months after the sale. After you read this post, go read the […]

yuzutea January 25, 2012 um 11:37 pm

Making LCD screens more energy efficient would be HUGE for tablet and phone battery life. Although, I wonder about how great it really is, since you’d think more companies would be very interested in such tech.

fjtorres January 26, 2012 um 9:55 am

It depends on how it works. If it requires a whole new backplane it might be incompatible with existing manufacturing facilities. Qualcomm, on the other hand, is supposed to have a whole new facility ready to go for Mirasol that might be retooled for the new screens.
If they can deliver the same image quality at one-quarter the power consumption it could be a game changer.

zinj January 26, 2012 um 1:48 pm

Nate, have you given up on the Mirasol screen in your Kyobo reader? Did you ever get it to work again?

Nate the Great January 26, 2012 um 1:51 pm

It works. For some reason the charging circuit decided to be difficult for a while, but then it stopped.

north4ce January 26, 2012 um 7:11 pm

Charging the Kyobo is weird. When plugging it in to be charged, a red led comes on and, once charging is complete, that doesn’t change to a green led nor go out. That’s not how many of our other portable deVices work!

The files you noted are for Windows 2K, XP and Vista. To load them onto a Win7 box, the files would need some editing.

Nate the Great January 26, 2012 um 7:13 pm

Thanks. I didn’t know that.

zinj January 27, 2012 um 10:55 am

Drivers file for the Kyobo? Where do you get it? Does it allow it to be recognized by Adobe Digital Editions?

Nate the Great January 27, 2012 um 11:27 am

The drivers re just so you can hack it.

Assuming Adobe DE supported the Kyobo eReader, all it would need to do is show up as a USB device.

north4ce January 29, 2012 um 10:31 am

Although I have yet to delve into Adobe DE, I suspect it also checks for an authorized device name. This would be similiar to the workings of the Amazon store and the Android Market which I believe can be spoofed by hacking the device name. Side loading books and apps might also work as Kyobo promotional literature states the device support DRM. Hard to say what form of DRM that means though.

Nate. I’d be interested in knowing your Kyobo’s internal memory capacity. You can get it by adding up the numbers on the Applications listing under Settings. Mine seems to have 1GB (100MB application, .92GB free) which is peculiar given Kyobo promotional literature.

Pixtronix Isn't Saying Much at SID Display Week – The Digital Reader October 6, 2014 um 9:00 am

[…] bound and determined to release Mirasol into this market, I’m seriously beginning to suspect they’re considering replacing one screen tech with the other  – and hope no one notices. Admittedly, the screen tech has little in common besides having […]

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