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Qualcomm Color Mirasol Display Will Fly on e-Books Next Year

Earlier today, I was less than enthused with BenQ’s e-book entry, but Qualcomm (s qcom) rejuvenated my e-book excitement with this news from SlashGear — color e-book screens will ship in 2010. The chipmaker’s mirasol color display has the potential to shake up the e-book industry — and possibly others in the portable space — just as much as Pixel Qi’s, in my opinion. The magic behind mirasol is the inspiration, which comes from the wings of a butterfly. Mirasol displays reuse external, ambient light, so no backlighting is needed. The company won several awards in 2009 for its 0.9″ mirasol display, but now it’s ready for a bigger footprint — say hello to a  5.7″ mirasol screen.

Image Credit: SlashGear

This larger panel is color-capable and, like traditional eInk displays, requires power only when refreshing the view. SlashGear says the new panel is even capable of video playback, but at usable frame rates, you’ll understandably see a big hit to the battery life, Still, Qualcomm figures that a Kindle (s AMZN) equipped with a color mirasol display could last for a full week on one charge. I’m topping off my Kindle’s battery every three weeks these days, but I’d make it weekly for a color display.

I’m also interested in this display technology from a phone and handheld perspective. From what I’ve seen so far, a mirasol display would look fantastic outdoors, which can’t be said about many other traditional screens. Using it for primary computing might not provide huge battery savings, but on a phone, the overall benefits might outweigh the cons. I’d even like to see it on a smartbook. Who’s getting ready to power those devices? Oh, that’s right… Qualcomm.

4 Responses to “Qualcomm Color Mirasol Display Will Fly on e-Books Next Year”

  1. distofanatic

    Interesting and promising, with potential far beyond the eReader field (current fad.) Do they have any comparisons between the costs to deploy vs. something like Pixel Qi? OLED is great, too, vs. TFT, etc., but engineering issues keep the actual deployment low (and slow.) I thought one of the most compelling things MLJ talks about is the ability for manufacturers to use existing fab to get Pixel Qi to the market and into a consumer’s hands. So, while it is exciting that the Mirasol tech is finally coming out into more mainstream sites, what is the real likelihood it will be adopted in devices the consumer can actually buy anytime soon? We’ve seen device manufacturers kill a 5¢ (literally) component from a (say) $500 device because it simply costs too much. I’d be interested to see what your sources say in regard to this topic. I’m sure we’ll have to translate their response somewhat, but I’ve not seen Qualcomm even attempt to address this yet. I have no dog in the hunt, no favorite technology to cheer for – I just want to see some of this technology actually reach the consumers hands so we can get away from the crappy screens all these “mobile” device companies use. Next up: Get rid of the cheap glossy housings!

    /end rant/

  2. Actually Kevin, you’re underselling the battery gains :) Qualcomm say that a Kindle-style device showing only B&W using mirasol would last for around 20% longer than the Kindle currently does: so that’s your roughly three weeks plus 20% on top. If you used a color e-ink display (i.e. not a mirasol one) that was video-capable, the battery life of the unit would be around a day at most; with mirasol it would be a week.

    So if you wanted exactly the same B&W use (or probably color, since I don’t think there’s much power difference in still B&W/color images) as before, you’d have an ereader capable of outliving your kindle. As for smartbooks and MIDs, Qualcomm certainly haven’t forgotten them – plus they’ve got some interesting ideas for where ereaders themselves are headed :)

  3. I’m impressed. If I still were a road warrior – I would have been looking forward to a Que, most likely. Or something from Amazon/Kindle to match it.

    I would be satisfied with B&W. Though everyone always says color will be the killer hardware upgrade.

    Now, all I have left to say is that I still wouldn’t need video. :)