Qualcomm invests in Sharp to speed release of new low power mobile display

Qualcomm on Tuesday announced that it will become a minority shareholder in Japanese consumer electronics company Sharp via Qualcomm subsidiarly Pixtronix. The investment focuses on display technology and follows Qualcomm's long-running interest in new mobile display technology with a small energy footprint.

For the last three years, Qualcomm has shown off an impressive MEMS-based full-color e-reader screen called Mirasol which went into commercial production this year and now appears in e-readers from Hanvon, Bambook, and Kyobo.

Late in 2011, Qualcomm acquired Massachusetts-based Pixtronix for its low-power display technology which included something called DMS ("Digital Micro Shutter,") a system which replaces polarized LCDs with tiny MEMS-based shutters to create pixel colors.

Sharp, meanwhile, was pioneering development on IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) TFTs, another part of LCD displays which promised to decrease the energy consumption of LCD displays while increasing their brightness. That technology debuted just a couple of weeks ago in a Sharp Aquos smartphone on NTT DoCoMo. Coincidentally, that device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor.

Qualcomm today said its investment in Sharp will accelerate the commercial release of a display that utilizes both Sharp's IGZO TFT and Pixtronix's MEMS shutter system. The two companies have been developing this new display for more than a year and a half.

"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," Derek Aberle, executive vice president and group president of Qualcomm said in a statement on Tuesday.

Photo: Oriontrail/Shutterstock

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