Qualcomm Buys Display Technology Startup

Qualcomm will shell out $170 million for Iridigm, a
display technology outfit whose patented iMoD technology is based on a
Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) structure combined with thin film optics.

Qualcomm said the acquisition is for the approximate 86 percent of Iridigm that it does
not already own. The deal awaits SEC regulatory approval, and,
Iridigm will become a wholly owned subsidiary of the wireless giant once it is complete.

Iridigm claims iMoD creates an image quality that is similar to reading a glossy magazine,
even in sunlight. The company also said iMoD can withstand extreme
temperatures, which benefits Qualcomm’s enterprise
product line, including its future color screens.

With the inclusion of color displays in all types of phones, including
models at the low end of the market, the cost of the display has become an
even more significant driver in the overall cost of the handset.

Qualcomm has been looking for a lower cost alternative to expensive LCD
screens. The company said Iridigm’s iMoD display should cost less to make
than a comparable liquid crystal display (LCD) because it requires fewer
processing steps to produce.

“The convergence of consumer electronics products, including cameras, MP3
players, camcorders, GPS receivers and game consoles, into wireless devices
is driving the increased adoption of 3G CDMA,” Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm
executive vice president said in a statement. “Our acquisition of Iridigm
will accelerate the time to market for the iMoD technology, which fits
Qualcomm’s overall strategy of rapidly increasing the capability of wireless
devices while driving down cost, size and power consumption.”

Qualcomm’s recent partnership with LG Electronics is expected
to align nicely with the Iridigm acquisition. Under the terms of that agreement, LG will
develop new handsets to support Qualcomm’s BREWChat push-to-talk technology.

Qualcomm and Iridigm are not strangers. Iridigm raised $25.6 million from
investors, including Qualcomm, Gabriel Venture Partners, Intel Capital,
Steamboat Ventures and VentureTech Alliance back in July.

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