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.