Whither Mirasol?

By  |  Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:53 am

One of my favorite tech demos back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of 2010 was Mirasol, a new kind of display from Qualcomm that combined some of the virtues of LCDs (color, respectable refresh rates) with the single biggest virtue of E Ink (crazy long battery life).  I saw it in person, was suitably impressed, and waited for the e-reader which Qualcomm said to expect by the end of the year.

The e-reader didn’t show up, and I kind of forgot about Mirasol–until yesterday. Here at Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference, there was a press conference with Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, and  someone asked him about Mirasol. Which I wish I’d thought to do.

Jacobs said that the technology is still in the works. Qualcomm had indeed been readying an e-reader, but it wasn’t thrilled with it and decided that Mirasol needed more refinement in general. He said that there’s a Mirasol plant which Qualcomm expects to be manufacturing displays in six to eight months–but that won’t be mass production yet. And he didn’t give any estimates of when products with Mirasol screens might go on sale.

Bottom line: Mirasol is still on its way, but it isn’t imminent. It might still be exciting once it shows up–we still need displays that do color and animation and which can last for weeks on a charge.  And I think back to the first time I saw an OLED display. That was about a decade ago in a lab at Kodak. It was a very rough-around-the-edges OLED, and the technology didn’t start showing up in consumer products for several years. But when it did, it was awfully cool. Mirasol could be, too.

 
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  1. Todd Says:

    Thanks for the update as I also thought Mirasol seemed promising and wondered how it was going.

  2. pond Says:

    This looks bad for Mirasol. There are tons of cool tech that ended up never used, because existing tech just kept on developing and getting better, with the key advantages of experience, scale, and competition.

    I wonder if PixelQi will also fall by the wayside. In both cases, color seems to be a stumbling block in getting ‘design wins': 3Qi and Mirasol screens just don’t have the rich saturation that today’s LCD screens have. The standard LCD tech, meanwhile, is flush with revenue from screens ranging from 3″ phones to 90″ HDTVs.

    One other note about Mirasol, regarding battery life. The screen has great battery life when you use it as an ereader, only changing the screen as you finish reading each page. But in displaying video (and refreshing the screen 30 times a second) battery life is nowhere near as good. How that usage stacks up against LCD and OLED, only the Mirasol makers and partners know. But Qualcomm has stated that indeed, playing video takes its toll.