Although Samsung has finally managed to get the Galaxy Beam out in several markets worldwide after having some mysterious production issues, the Android projector-phones revolution which we predicted more than a year ago hasn’t quite started.
The initial level of interest surrounding the Beam, the first commercial Android phone with a built-in pico-projector, hasn’t been very encouraging for the nascent niche, which might have quashed the enthusiasm of some tech lovers.
We, however, never stopped hoping for some rapid evolution in the area, and it seems that our hopes were not in vain. STMicroelectronics, a Swiss-based multinational electronics manufacturer, could be the answer to our prayers, based on a press release announcing the company’s latest acquisition and some of its plans for the future.
STM, which primarily handles semiconductor chip making (including for Android manufacturers like Samsung or HTC), has apparently completed the IP (intellectual property) and talent acquisition of bTendo, a smaller company/old partner of STMicro.
Israeli-based bTendo will bring its innovative “Scanning Laser Projection engine” next to ST’s leading MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) expertise in an effort to start the mass production of “tiny size and low power” smartphones, digital cameras, and laptops with built-in projectors.
Excited yet? Well, you should be, as bTendo is supposedly capable of making projection engines fit “in a module smaller than 1.7 cubic centimeters, and less than 5 mm high”, which will definitely lower the bar for ultra-slim Android projector phones. Keep in mind that the Galaxy Beam, which is itself not a bulky gadget, measures 12.5 mm in thickness.
And even though STM hasn’t mentioned any plans to come up with tablets with built-in projectors, they are thinking of fitting the technology on laptops, and there’s only one small step from there, isn’t it?
No timeframe has been announced just yet for the mass production of phones, cameras, or laptops with included projectors, but EE Times is predicting we will have such gadgets up for grabs as soon as the beginning of next year. It’ll also be interesting to see which big-time manufacturers will want in on this business, as we know that STM has started “sending samples of their new pico-projectors to potential customers”.
Getting back to the bTendo acquisition for just a sec, STMicroelectronics has been mum on the financial details of the transaction. However, it's safe to assume that Carlo Bozotti and Didier Lombard, STM's bosses, had to send out to Israel a seven digits check. Fair price to pay for an early start in what might just be a very profitable business in a year or two? We think so.
How about you? Would you ever consider buying a phone, tablet, camera, netbook or notebook with a pico-projector? And do you think that STM and whoever else will join them need to step it up a notch in terms of actual performance from what we've seen on the Galaxy Beam?