These days almost every cell phone, even a basic one, comes with a digital camera. I was not one of those who would not have predicted its rapid and widespread adoption. But its ubiquity stems from two factors: cost effectiveness and user behavior. Cameras have become readily integrated within the cost and form-factor framework of cell phones. And users have integrated this capability within their daily lives. Will the same become true for pico-projectors?
Analyst and Editor for
Texas Instruments (Plano, TX; www.ti.com) thinks so. According to John Van Scoter, senior vice president and general manager of DLP Products, handheld and mobile projection products may replicate the success of handset-use built-in cameras, and their popularity will grow fast in the next five to 10 years.
In a DigiTimes report yesterday, Van Scoter said some clients are already developing products based on TI’s solutions for handheld and mobile projection, and products are expected to hit the market in the second half of the year.
TI in February 2008 announced production availability of a new DLP Pico chipset, which includes an imaging chip and a processor that can be easily fit into a new class of handheld and mobile projection products. The company demonstrated its latest WUXGA DLP chip for data projectors that produces images at a native resolution of 1920×1200 pixels in Taipei this week.
Van Scoter said the market potential for mobile projection is huge. Granted that the handset market has a size of one billion units per year, a 1% penetration rate for mobile projection solutions means 10 million units a year, he said.
Improvements in luminance and production costs will enable adoption to spread from high-end handsets to entry-level ones in the five to 10 years, he said.
He better hope so, because the company is running out of mass-market options for its highly-promoted DLP technology. Over the years the company has pushed to find a volume market for its imaging technology and has spent billions of dollars promoting it in its various forms. Back in the early 90’s it was digital cinema, but the market remains small. Then in the late 90’s, it started hanging its hat on a promising consumer RPTV market. The company is still in the middle of a $100M dollar advertising campaign and promotion with ESPN. But that market is waning.
In front projection, particularly the portable business projector market, TI dominates with some technological advantages. But that market is small compared to consumer TV. How will TI emerge successful with DLP? Are pico-projectors the answer?
Several technological hurdles remain with respect to form-factor integration with mobile devices. Optimizing the optical path versus size, brightness and battery consumption still face fundamental hurdles posed by underlying physics, according to some experts.
Furthermore, TI isn’t the only game in town. Other pico-designs coming into play include other imager technologies, such as LCOS, as well as Microvision’s (Redmond, WA; www.microvision.com) PicoP display engine.
Microvision’s solution is based on a MEMS single scanning mirror with modulated light sources. The company plans to demonstrate a palm-sized, self-contained, battery-operated, full-color pico projector at the SID 2008 exhibition in June.
So, beyond the technical hurdles in integrating these technologies with mobile devices, it remains to be seen just how user behavior will adopt its usage. Beyond cost, brightness and form factor, will using these tiny projectors be as compelling as a digital camera?
TI thinks so, or at least they should hope so.
Insight Media has done a full report on the pico projector market opportunity. For more, go to: http://www.insightmedia.info/reports/2008picoprojdetails.php.