Mirasol spent almost four years developing its screen technology, which was an alternative to Pixel QI and Color e-Paper. It was based on IMOD (Interferometric MODulation), with MEMS structures at its core. This MEMS-based innovation is bistable & highly reflective, meaning the display itself can be seen in direct sunlight. It saw many products reach South Korea and Asia, but never took off in North America. What went wrong with the screens?
Mirasol screen technology was developed to draw less power and be viewable in direct sunlight. Qualcomm had grand ambitions to usher in a new era of smartphone, tablet, and e-reader screens. The company spent almost 1 billion dollars on a dedicated factory in Taiwan to produce the screens. Unfortunately, there were only four companies in Asia that bought into what Mirasol was selling: Hanvon, Bambook, Kyobo, and Koobe Jin Yong. All of these devices ran on the Google Android operating system and were very unique in the marketplace. Sadly, all of these e-readers/tablets suspended production and are no longer being made or marketed.
Qualcomm was estimated to have lost close to 300 million dollars in 2012 due to the Mirasol fiasco. The company announced a few months ago that it was abandoning the technology in its current form. “We are now focusing on licensing our next-generation Mirasol display technology and will directly commercialize only certain Mirasol products,” said Chief Executive Paul Jacobs Wednesday in a conference call with analysts. “We believe this strategy will better align our updated road map with the addressable opportunities.”
So what went wrong? Mirasol screens were only able to produce 60 Hz video, which quickly drained the battery. When we reviewed the Kyobo e-Reader, we noticed that colors looked washed out. There simply isn’t an interest from large scale companies like LG, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC to use unproven screens with their phones and tablets. Samsung spends a ridiculous amount of money on developing its own screens and purchased Liquavista for its electrowetting display, but has since been quiet about it. In the end, all the big boys have their existing supply chain and don’t want to buy risky new developments.
The lack of mainstream support is what destroyed Mirasol, Pixel Qi, and Plastic Logic. All of these companies almost went broke developing factories and research and development sectors. All of them in 2012 announced that they were getting out of making commercial products and instead will license their technology. Pixel Qi has seen the most success with marketing its tech to the military and government sectors.
Find out the semantics of Mirasol screen technology HERE.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.