Pixel Qi's screen tech is impressive in many ways, and neatly solves the e-ink versus LCD question at one stroke. It's curiously not available on many devices, however. Until now, that is: Pixel Qi is releasing a DIY mod kit for your laptop.
The company's CEO Mary Lou Jepsen revealed the plan in a blog posting yesterday. "The DIY kits from our distributors will be available towards the end of Q2. We will be announcing with them prior to distribution" is the important part, revealing we can expect bolt-in Pixel Qi units sometime in June.
The inspiration comes from Jepsen's work in Nigeria where an 11 year-old girl opened a "laptop hospital" to fix broken OLPCs that suffered falls, bumps, and scrapes. As Jepsen notes, "Most people are scared to change their laptop screen," but in reality, "It's only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbulb: It's basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in. That's it. It's a 5 minute operation."
Pixel Qi's screens offer significant benefits over plain old LCDs that are usually found in laptops and netbooks: It's a lower power than "normal" LCDs when in LCD mode, and also switches to a sunlight-viewable e-ink-esque mode that consumes much less power while also retaining full color capability. These benefits will be tempting to many netbook users who are looking for better battery performance or outdoors-reading capability. Jepsen's promoting the ease of performing the mod—and she's right, though you'll have to be gentle and confident when tinkering with the ribbon connector that actually hooks the screen up to the PC's motherboard.
The idea has set us wondering, though, about exactly how successful Pixel Qi's business model is. The tech is undoubtedly clever, but as I noted above it's not something you see utilized in many places—Pixel Qi is obviously having a hard time breaking into the supplier chain between screen makers and PC manufacturers. It's not a surprise, given the billions of dollars big names like LG have invested in fab plants, and the multi-million dollar deals these companies sign up to with makers like Apple...but it is a shame. Maybe the company will achieve better success with this new DIY system.