Name: Pixel Qi
Developing a technology for low-power, low-cost displays that are readable in direct sunlight. The company is moving into mass production, with netbooks targeted as the first application of its 3qi screen. E-readers could be next.
Location: San Bruno, CA
Telephone: (650) 745 0826
Year Founded: 2008
Number of Employees: not disclosed
CEO: Mary Lou Jepson
Bio: Bachelors in electrical engineering and art from Brown University, Ph.D in optical sciences from Brown University. Masters in holography from MIT. Before Pixel Qi, Jepson was a co-founder and CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project. Previously she had founded four other companies and was the CTO of Intel’s display division.
Vice-president of engineering: Carlin Vieri
Bio: Bachelors in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Ph.D. in electrical engineering from MIT. Prior to Pixel Qi, Vieri worked for Apple, and before that he worked at MicroDisplay Corporation.
The company completed a round of investment in March 2009, though the company has not disclosed how much it raised or the names of the investors.
PixelQi’s screen technology could represent a key breakthrough for the portable computer market, especially for low-cost devices. The first iteration of the Pixel Qi product, called the 3Qi, will likely leverage much of Jepsen’s expertise in the field to create a screen that is readable in direct sunlight and more power efficient than current display technologies. Jepsen states on the company’s blog that Pixel Qi’s screen “consumes 25%-50% of the power of a regular notebook screen in their power savings mode and will be available at comparable price points and volumes to standard LCD screens.” Jepsen claims that Pixel Qi’s ability to integrate the screen itself with the electronics driving the screen can result in 5-fold increases in battery life (same cite as above).
The PixelQi screen began mass production in the fourth quarter of 2009, aiming at netbooks, eReaders (where it would compete with E-Ink’s display technology) and tablets as the first set of devices to use the screen. The portable computer market has experienced precipitous growth over the past year, with netbook sales growing to nearly 20% of the total laptop market in 2009 and eReaders forecasted to reach 3 million units by the end of 2009. Currently the dominant market player,E-Ink, has seen a 250% increase in sales in 2009.
The company holds a significant competitive advantage in its founder, Mary Lou Jepsen. Jepsen holds 48 display-related patents and is widely credited as the central mind behind the innovative display technology developed by One Laptop Per Child. In the highly competitive consumer electronics market, battery life and display quality and size are two saleable differentiators. If Pixel Qi’s product lives up to what it claims, it could very well become the dominant supplier of screen technology to major manufacturers.
Challenges and Next Steps:
The claims that the company has made to date, of low cost, high resolution, low power displays are lofty, though early photos of the screens suggest that the developments achieved by Pixel Qi are superior to any competitor’s existing technology. If this is the case, the largest challenge to Pixel Qi will be properly scaling in order to meet the demand for their screens.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today