Tuesday's news that Qualcomm (Nasdaq:
) would make an equity investment of up to $120 million in
Japan's ailing LCD panel maker Sharp (OTC:
) may herald a new generation of ultra low power displays for
Qualcomm subsidiary Pixtronix, has developed a
microelectromechanical system (
) Digital Micro Shutter (DMS) which is a low-power alternative to
the liquid crystals used to create images in liquid crystal
, "A high switching speed makes [the Pixtronix MEMS display]
suitable for applications ranging from full-speed video to
e-reader operation and Pixtronix claimed that the display offered
greater than 170 degree viewing angles, more than 3,000:1
contrast ratio and 24-bit color depth at one quarter of the power
consumption of equivalent size and resolution liquid crystal
For its part, Sharp has been promoting the IGZO display, which
uses indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) semiconductors instead of
silicon, which enhances image quality and reduces power
explains, "Electrons move faster in IGZO and that brings benefits
in current flow that mean the transistors can be made much
smaller. Because the size of the transistor directly affects the
size of the pixel, a smaller transistor allows for smaller pixels
and so more can be crammed in per inch than today."
PC World cited a prototype IGZO display that had 498 ppi
(pixels per inch). "That's a 50 percent increase on the 326ppi
screen used in Apple's iPhone 4S and roughly double that of the
new iPad," PC World stated.
Sharp has made no bones about seeing the IGZO display as the
key to its survival. The company had previously struck a deal
with Hon Hai Precision Industry based on the IGZO display
technology only to have that deal fall apart after Sharp's share
"Sharp is targeting to accelerate the commercialization of
MEMS displays by combining Sharp's cutting-edge IGZO technology
and Pixtronix's MEMS display technology," said Yoshisuke
Hasegawa, executive managing officer of Sharp, in a statement
announcing the investment.
"Expanding our existing relationship with Sharp to jointly
commercialize new MEMS display technologies will help both
companies realize their shared goal of driving high performance,
lower power displays for a variety of devices, including
smartphones and tablets," said Derek Aberle, executive vice
president and group president of Qualcomm, in the same
Sharp launched its first IGZO display smartphone, the Aquos
Phone Zeta SH-02E, in Japan on November 29. The phone is being
marketed through Japan's top cell phone carrier NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:
). According to
, Sharp will market a tablet computer with a 7-inch IGZO display
by the end of December.
The combination of Qualcomm's MEMS DMS technology with Sharp's
IGZO displays would make "always on" display technology possible
for mobile devices. This could open up an entirely new way to use
mobile devices, increasing the demand for MEMS IGZO displays.
"Today, the phone is off," Qualcomm president and CEO Steven
Mollenkopf told Bloomberg in an interview. "In the future, the
phone -- the display -- should be on all the time so you can take
advantage of the fact that it's always on, sucking down all this
information, providing all this interesting stuff."
Qualcomm's investment is expected to keep the lights on at
Sharp for the time being. It may also allow for the development
of revolutionary new mobile display devices.
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