Will Qualcomm's Mirasol Be Amazon's Future Kindle?

Includes: AMZN, QCOM
by: Larry Dignan

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 (NASDAQ:QCOM) 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 (NASDAQ:AMZN) 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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