Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

Summary: Qualcomm's Mirasol, a color screen that has the battery life of E-Ink and can play video, is a likely candidate for a future version of Amazon's Kindle. Now all Qualcomm has to do is manufacture it profitably.

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TOPICS: Amazon
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Qualcomm's Mirasol, a color screen that has the battery life of E-Ink and can play video, is a likely candidate for a future version of Amazon's Kindle. Now all Qualcomm has to do is manufacture it profitably.

Mirasol was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and has produced a steady stream of buzz ever since. The promise is that Qualcomm's Mirasol could give e-readers some new kick.

Indeed, Amazon is testing color screens in its labs and reportedly were playing with Mirasol. The official line from Amazon, which was handed out with a quick demo of the latest Kindle a few weeks ago, is that color screens just aren't ready for prime time. Apparently, the screens are ready for the big time, but the supply chain isn't.

Here's what Steve Mollenkopf, executive vice president of Qualcomm's CDMA Technologies, said at the Pacific Crest Securities Technology Leadership Forum:

I think we've been able to show that the product itself works and is compelling. (With) video, it has update rates that are consistent with the way these high-quality UIs work. And the high-quality UIs, by the way, have very, very fast peak frame rates because people like all the transitions and things like that.

You can actually do this on a display that essentially has the same power profile of the E-Ink displays, which you have in Mirasol or in the [cable] devices today. So it's very compelling if you can put color and video together with that use case. But in order to win that, really for us, it's about showing that we can produce the production [ramp].

The product itself has been getting pretty positive feedback from customers, and now the problem is really how do you build it. And I think we need to get that figured out and advise you guys as to when you should think about that being a significant business. But we're positive on how it looks. I think it's a little early for us to be guiding you to a particular revenue target and things like that, but I think we'll be in a better position to do that in the upcoming months.

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Topic: Amazon

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17 comments
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  • "Mirasol could give e-readers some new kick"

    Not really. Just stick that display in a tablet which will of course double as an e-book reader and be done with it.

    e-book readers are a transitional single purpose device with no long term future. If you are going to make an e-book reader into a multi-purpose device, there are other and better solutions.
    Economister
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @Economister <br><br>I could see this working very nicely with tablet devices to extend battery life and improve visibility in sunny areas (if it is like E-ink). But if it can be used for e-readers in a cost efficient manner, then I see a market for the screen there as well. While they may be transitional devices, there are always those people out there who would want a dedicated device. The addition of this type of screen would make some (not all are color) graphic novels, comics, e-magazines much better on the devices and there could even be short author interview videos and such. Of course there is the advertising end too. All of that assumes, however, that the cost of the screen can be made similar to current reader screens.<br><br>The tablet route is a much better one, but there is still some money to be made in ebook readers.
      luxsphinx@...
  • Take amazon with a grain of salt

    They have their own agenda.... I can see them squashing a perfectly good color technology because they have a warehouse full of B/W eReaders.

    Qualcomm would be better off making their own reader, or partnering up with someone who has a superb supply chain and tons of manufacturing skilo, but lacks any cool products (Sony).
    croberts
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @croberts Not really. Look how fast they made the switch from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3. No warnings - just flip and it was done. I'd expect that the switch to color would occur just as quick.
      Blackbeagle2
    • Are you serious?

      @croberts

      What business-school did you go to, ITT Tech?

      Amazaon would live to offer color affordably, but it just isn't cost-effective now.
      trickytom2
      • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

        @trickytom2

        How amusing. How did this get tangled with with business school? My comment was aimed squarely at the b/w eInk campaign that has tried to convince consumers that b/w eInk is the best electronic equivalent to paper.

        Suprise, paper has color. And another surprise, the technology to make a sun-readable color display is basically here.

        And third surprise, the suspicious consumers that questioned the need for a b/w reader will very quickly get stuck with obsolete devices.

        Yes technology advances, but this is COLOR. As in color TV, and Color photography. Trying to sell b/w to a reluctant public is tantamount to selling snakeoil. Everyone was right to be suspicious.
        croberts
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @croberts

      Why would Amazon wish to even have a warehouse full of any product when the demand is so high they cannot keep the pipeline filled.

      Qualcomm would be indeed foolish to partner with Sony, the company who had a one year jump on the e-ink reader and botched the marketing so bad that they still have not caught up. Sony makes wonderful products but their marketing is abominable.
      amacd55
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @croberts <br>Except Amazon owns the Kindle store, which they will miss out on. I am not sure if they want to spend as much time and money on marketing etc etc. (they are largely a components vendor) Regardless of all the google and ibooks talk, amazon is still the leader in the supply of ebooks, and porting kindle to the ipad/phone has allowed them to compete with apple on their own device, they can do the same with android (which I assume a google ebook reader will use). Either way apple & google can't do the same, which means the kindle store will be critical to a "ereader" being produced large scale. Since qualcomm is making a component, they want to scale this up as fast as possible to make back the research money.<br><br>So unless they want to go the phone/tablet/computer route, which may not be as good a fit for this tech, then the obvious choice is amazon.
      pk 7
  • That is...

    Assuming that the Kindle is more than just a loss-leader to drive Amazon book sales.

    More color e-readers are appearing and, if the tech exists affordably, Amazon will be forced to offer a color Kindle just to stay in the game.

    Qualcomm might be wise to forge a non-exclusive agreement with Amazon.
    becksdark
  • PVI plus Touchco Technology

    I don't see Mirasol taking off as an ereader display. I think cost will be the stumbling block.<br><br>Kindle will probably stick with PVI's color e-ink display (PVI makes the current Kindle displays). To make the PVI dispay a touchscreen all it needs is pressure sensors that sit behind the display (so the display is not obscured), kind of like those developed by Touchco Technology (which Amazon bought out last year).<br><br>PVI is slated to mass produce these displays at the end of the year.
    kyron.gustafson@...
  • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

    The e-book industry really needs someone like Houghton-Mifflin to come in and say, "We want e-books in schools, make us some."

    I think the e-reader does have a future. When the prices come down an e-reader will be in all schools. I think e-readers will replace books, eventually. And if your e-reader doubles as a tablet, then you have the money to afford one.
    prof.ebral
  • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

    Price and availablity will be key. K-Mart is already selling a color e-book (and more) reader with 7" LCD display for $99. It plays MP4 videos, displays photos, and will browse the web. Not being a touchscreen is the only thing keeping it from being considered a tablet competitor.

    4D
    4dthinker
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @4dthinker I think you left out reliability, battery life, weight, ease of use and the hook into a good supply of books as well.
      amacd55
  • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

    For those who think color is not important, I suggest they look at a wiring diagram, a schematic, anatomy, physics, chemistry, geology, medical, cookbook, comics, or any other book which depends on color.
    amacd55
  • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

    The supply chain problem can get fixed. The match up between the Amazon and Mirasol can work out. The question is, is it the best for both? Color is better but is mirasol the best fit for kindle?
    'Jonathan'
    • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

      @'Jonathan' <br><br>+1. There are other competing color e-ink techs out there which are able to display video. <br>The magic combo to be a winner is 1:Color/readability 2: Power efficient, 3: sunlight readable, 4: affordability 5: refresh rate.<br><br>$$ will be a huge deal because I think Mirasol is a totally different tech, and ramping up manufacturing may be hard. Other companies are focusing on modifying LCD manufacturing lines to produce similar displays, but I am unsure if Mirasol can because its tech is so different.<br><br>Also it is not just Amazon who is interested, think netbooks and ultra efficient laptops. (Not to mention the dual eink - LCD screens hitting the market now)
      pk 7
  • RE: Qualcomm's E-Ink killer: How do you mass produce Mirasol?

    We had a similar discussion about OLED's some years ago. It took many years until they figured out how to produce them in quantiity and in a useful size. We ar up to mobile phone size now, but not yet to televisions. Mirasol sounds like a similar set of problems, maybe worse.
    jorjitop