Qualcomm acquires smartphone, tablet display startup

Qualcomm acquires a display tech company that may help it advance its development of mirasol displays for smartphones and tablets.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
Kyobo eReader with 5.7-inch 1024x768 Qualcomm Mirasol display.
Kyobo eReader with 5.7-inch 1024x768 Qualcomm Mirasol display. Qualcomm

Qualcomm has acquired display startup Pixtronix, which has developed technology applicable to smartphone and tablet screens.

Andover, Mass.-based Pixtronix's Digital Micro Shutter technology integrates MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) and TFTs (thin-film transistors), providing "differentiation, while leveraging proven manufacturing equipment, processes and materials," according to the company's Web site.

Hallmarks of the technology listed by Pixtronix include low power, high-speed light modulation, Digital TFT backplane, backlight efficiency of 60 percent (a claimed 10-fold advantage over LCD), utilization of existing TFT-LCD equipment, processes and materials, and elimination of high cost, performance-limiting liquid crystals, color filters and polarizers.

Pixtronix has claimed that a display will offer viewing angles greater than 170 degrees, a contrast ratio better than 3,000:1, and 24-bit color depth at one quarter of the power consumption of an equivalent LCD.

A 5-inch prototype display has been developed with Chimei Innolux, a TFT-LCD manufacturer.

Presumably, Qualcomm is interested in applying this technology in some form to its MEMS-based mirasol displays, which have evolved from rudimentary tiny bichrome 1.2-inch-screen beginnings to the 5.7-inch color screen featured on Kyobo's e-reader (see photo above).

Mirasol displays excel in harnessing ambient light, thus saving power.

Qualcomm paid between $175 million and $200 million for Pixtronix, according to EE Times.

Qualcomm confirmed the acquisition to CNET but is not providing further details.

Via EE Times