After years bubbling under the success radar, Pixel Qi has revealed a large high-resolution screen that works indoors and outdoors with equal ease. If it succeeds, it could change how and where you use computers.
Pixel Qi's story is a long and complex one, starting with a falling out over the design of the One Laptop Per Child system, and a schism between that team that resulted in one side perfecting e-ink and the other perfecting Pixel Qi tech. This battle is key to Pixel Qi's success, because while e-ink delivers a "near paper and ink" viewing quality on e-readers and excellent daylight readability, it's absolutely not suited for video content, is unreadable in the dark, and only recently is getting good at full-color display. Pixel Qi thus takes some of e-inks daylight-viewing qualities, and its low power consumption, and adds in a full-color, video mode that works in the dark. Do you see the potential here? A tablet or laptop that's great for fragging orcs in a midnight World of Warcraft session, and reading an e-book on South Beach ... all on the same device.
But until now Pixel Qi's tech has failed to materialize in any mainstream tech. This is for a bunch of reasons—some technical, some financial, some just bad luck. But at Computex this week, the company has revealed late-stage prototype screens that completely fit the bill. First up there's a 7-inch 1024 by 600-pixel unit that'll hit full production in the fall of this year—it's a perfect solution for many of the Android tablets that're hitting the market because it transforms them from highly portable tablets into hand-sized e-readers, much like Barnes and Noble's newest device.
Then there's the 10-inch panel at an "HD" laptop-friendly resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, which eats only 20% of the electrical power of a comparable full-LCD/LED back-lit screen—it needs just 2.7W in color operation, and 0.4W in e-reader transreflective mode. That's an 80% power saving folks, which could really transform your ultra-thin, SSD-equipped laptop into an all-day-battery unit. There are a few brightness question marks hovering over this prototype, but they'll be ironed out by the time it goes into production in the Winter of 2011.
All that needs to happen now is for a major manufacturer to partner with the firm (pulling off a similar deal perhaps as Amazon's and E-ink's) and how you think about using your portable computing devices could change forever, particularly if battery tech promises come true, alongside developments in low power-consuming chips from Intel and ARM.