Mirasol showcases 4.1-inch smartphone concept at SID 2011, promises 'converged e-reader' this year (video)

Another week, another look into the wild, mysterious world of Mirasol. We met with the company for an extended period here at SID 2011, and while the smartphone concept shown above was certainly intriguing, it's the behind-the-scenes story that truly piqued our interest. If you've kept even a loose eye on display technologies, Qualcomm's Mirasol branch has no doubt caught your eye -- in fact, the company seemed overwhelmingly sure that it'd ship consumer products soon after we met with 'em at CES 2010. Yet here we are, nearly 1.5 years later, without a single Mirasol product available on the open market. It begs the question: why? We found out. As the story goes, Mirasol's been shipping displays to partners for years, and it really did have confirmation that partners would be punching products out onto the market soon after 2010 began. But then, the iPad happened.

No, seriously -- that's the story. Apple's sudden and calculated tablet launch caused Mirasol's stable of partners to "reevaluate" their launch strategies, and that reevaluating led to the shelving / delaying of every single promising product in the pipeline. One angle in particular seemed to catch everyone off guard; prior to the iPad's launch, most companies (and consumers, for that matter) reckoned that people wouldn't even consider reading on an LCD. Digital bookworms would want E Ink, or better still, a colorized alternative like Mirasol. Come to find out, people actually don't seem to mind reading on LCDs, and in fact, they seem downright appreciative of the extra functionality baked into modern day tablets. As you can imagine, all of that spelled trouble for a display technology like Mirasol. So, where do we sit today? Read on to find out.

Thankfully, we're in a much different place than the one we sat in 2010. Contrary to popular belief, Mirasol actually has no control over the shipment of end products. All it can do is ship panels to partners; it's on them to actually bring wares to market. The good news, however, is that the company's 5.7-inch, low-power display actually will see the light of day by the end of 2011, with at least one "converged e-reader" slated to bring a 3x battery life improvement to a mobile reader format.

We've reason to believe that the company's not just blowing smoke -- it's not too hard to imagine what kind of 5.7-inch tablet(ish) device could hit the market in the months to come, and with one Google-powered OS finding itself just about everywhere these days, we're also hazarding a guess that the e-readers that never materialized in 2010 will gain all sorts of new tricks when they try again in 2011. Oh, and if you're wondering why a Mirasol panel never made it to the Kindle? You didn't hear from us, but it's probably a matter of Qualcomm's single fab plant not being able to produce the kind of volume Amazon required.

And that brings us to smartphone concept we mentioned earlier. Debuting for the first time here at Display Week, this 4.1-inch mockup was seen sporting a WVGA resolution, and while the panel is as real as it gets, there were no brains powering any motion. In other words, we were left with a frozen image, albeit one that looked better than we expected. The company asserts that something like this may become a reality in three to four years -- a bit after its new Taiwan-based fabrication facility goes online in 2012 -- but one has to wonder just how big the market is for something like this. Sure, it'll increase battery life by a few orders of magnitude, but it also looks markedly less impressive than your average Super LCD / AMOLED. Have a gander at the gallery below, and keep your eyes peeled for more as the year develops.