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Qualcomm acquires Pixtronix, Andover company developing tech for low-power displays

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 1, 2011 11:32 AM

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San Diego-based Qualcomm, a major developer and licensor of mobile technology, quietly scooped up Pixtronix last week. The Andover company, founded in 2005, has been working on multimedia display screens for phones, tablets, and laptops that would use just one-quarter of the power of today's liquid crystal displays. With today's mobile devices, the display is typically the component that uses the most power.

Pixtronix and Qualcomm had been pursuing different approaches to low-power displays, according to this 2009 New York Times piece, but both incorporated MEMS (microelectro-mechanical system) technology; in Pixtronix's case, thousands of tiny shutters control the light emitted by LED bulbs.

Pixtronix had raised just north of $50 million in funding from investors like Atlas Venture of Cambridge and Silicon Valley based Kleiner Perkins. Neither Qualcomm nor Pixtronix would comment on the acquisition price, but sources close to the deal tell me it was in the neighborhood of $175 million to $200 million.

Pixtronix has 45 employees, and Mark Halfman, the company's senior director of business development, says they'll remain in Andover. "We'll continue to focus on developing and licensing our technology," Halfman says. The company's technology isn't yet in the market, Halfman says, but the company has announced joint development projects with companies like Hitachi Displays and Taiwan-based CMI. Halfman says that Pixtronix CEO Tony Zona plans to stick around. (One year is always a safe bet...)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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