Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Microvision: Protect Your Intellectual Property Part 3

I hope you read part 1 and part 2 on the subject of “Microvision: Protect Your Intellectual Property”. If not, here’s the link to those two posts…


Part 3 is all about communicating the observations that some folks [besides me] have made over the last few months and most recently at the Annual Stockholders Meeting [ASM] on September 15th.

Microvision Wants to be Major Player in the Imaging Market Place:

“Laser steering projector is the bread and butter of Microvision for the foreseeable future and we are going to focus on the embedded PicoP to make the company profitable.” … Believed to be the words of Alex Tokman, CEO of Microvision, at the Annual Shareholders Meeting!

“Microvision is positioning itself thru patents and IP to be a major player in the image community. He (Alex) said: “Microvision is not going to be a small component provider that can be marginalized by bigger players.”

Alex sees Microvision as an INTEL type company. He is going to make the company a major player in the image industry. That may very well explain the “Image by PicoP” as the slogan chosen for the world’s first laser based PicoP projector SHOWwx. Please read my post on…

Yes Virginia: “It’s Intel Inside… but Image by PicoP.”
Here’s the link…


In my humble opinion, Alex Tokman is set on a course to turn Microvision not only like an Intel… but also Qualcomm at the same time.

Here’s why…

First, the observations we have made over the last few months…

“The slides on patents and IP at the ASM were probably the most interesting of all the slides in the presentation.  We have seen earlier versions of these back in May 2009.  These slides showed a marked increase in patent filings by the company after Alex Tokman took over as CEO.  However, now there also seems to be a renewed and significant emphasis on bigger picture kinds of claims regarding things like applications.  Most all of the early patents were about hardware and how you make the hardware work... and it is those patents that got Microvision on the IEEE Spectrum and Wall Street Journal [The Patent Board] list.”

So, why this emphasis on “bigger picture” kinds of claims including things like “applications”?

I think the answer lies in the CEO’s head and from time to time is reflected in his actions and statements.  I won’t be surprised to see more patents coming out of Microvision that also cover services and applications… besides the PicoP display engine hardware. It is possible that in the future, Microvision business model may resemble, in some ways, that of Qualcomm.  Qualcomm business model consists of “chip sales” along with the sale of “Intellectual Property Rights” for innovative Applications and Services to the wireless companies.
• Alex Tokman sees Microvision as an Intel type company

• We will [not] get marginalized by bigger OEM players that we may some day call customers
• Choice of marketing slogan like: “Image by PicoP”
• Bigger picture claims that include “applications” of PicoP in their hardware type patent applications
• Early development of PicoP Evaluation Kit [PEK]
• Aggressive marketing [and sales] of PEK for a broader applications Value Added Resellers.
Eventually, in my opinion, Microvision may not only be selling PicoP display engines and associated components… but also selling “Intellectual Property Rights” to innovative Applications and Services built around their PicoP display technology.  That’s one sure way of [not] getting marginalized by bigger OEM players that it may some day call customers… like Apple, Motorola, Sony, Nokia and so on.

I have known about Alex Tokman for many years before he came to Microvision. However, the news about Alexander Tokman coming on board as the new President and COO of Microvision caught my attention, and subsequent interest in Microvision, as I have known of him from his days at GE. What Tokman did at GE was quite remarkable.

“Alexander Tokman joined Microvision in July 2005 as a President and COO.  Tokman was responsible for managing Microvision’s operations, including sales, marketing, research and development, and supply chain. He was named President and CEO in January 2006. Tokman, a 10+ year GE executive, joined Microvision from GE Healthcare, where most recently he served as General Manager of Global Molecular Imaging & Radiopharmacy—a self-contained, global multi-technology business unit. Over the past five years at GE Tokman defined, developed, and successfully commercialized several new technology businesses including PET/CT, which added $500M+ of organic top line growth to the company within the first three years of its commercial introduction.”

Having said that, and knowing what little I know about Alex Tokman, I can confidently say that he has the vision to see the huge potential Microvision’s PicoP display engine [laser-scanning 1 MEMS] technology offers as the leader of the pack.

That’s right, leader of the pack!!!

Here’s why…

“…in view of the limitations and image quality issues associated with current Pico display technologies being offered or being pursued by others.”

TI is stuck with DLP technology, 3M is pushing Color Filter LcoS technology, Syndiant is working with light panels on LcoS technology, Expaly is working with laser based LcoS technology, Micron Displaytech is working with FLCOS technology, bTendo [2006 start-up] is working with laser-scanning 2MEMS technology , and Maradin [2007 start-up] is working with laser-scanning 1 MEMS technology.

The only two Pico display technologies on the market to-day are: DLP by TI and LcoS by 3M… the rest of the rat pack are still “working” on their R&D.  While there are some interim Pico projectors based on technology such as color filter LCOS [ 3M technology] and DLP [TI technology] that were in a position to get to market earlier… but they have major drawbacks in fulfilling the size, power, image quality, resolution and always in focus requirements of the market, particularly for embedded devices. We are already seeing color filter LcoS products being designed out in favor of field sequential LcoS and many former “DLP-only design houses” also have field sequential LcoS designs underway.

Syndiant [2004 start-up] talks “big game”, at their website, about light modulating panels that use Field Sequential LcoS [FSLCOS] to provide a very high resolution display that will be always be in focus when RGB lasers are used as the light source.  Currently, however, they use, so they claim, LEDs as the light source. It is interesting to note that Syndiant Pico projectors are not on sale yet and we haven’t seen any of their projector demos at any of the trade shows thus far. 

"In summary, if we are to believe everything that we read at Syndiant’s website, then all the competition, including Microvision, should pack-it-in… because Syndiant’s technology is so much superior and costs so much cheaper."

However, before we recommend that competition to Syndiant, including Microvision, should pack-it-in and move-on to some other un-charted technology frontier… we should look at the Intellectual Property of Syndiant that they should have, really, to protect such a valuable technology.  Our patent search found the following…

• Syndiant: No Patents found

However, Syndiant claims, at their website, to have four (4) patents.   In reality, it seems they may have only one patent issued in four different countries... the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia.

“Syndiant has achieved four patents in the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia relating to the digital backplane and various methods, systems and devices for controlling a digital backplane, light modulating elements and spatial light modulators. Syndiant has a number of other patents pending.”

Here’s the link…

• Microvision (1 MEMS): 557 Patents (among those are a massive amount of World Patents and European Patents).  Patent search shows 557 patents [World Patents] for Microvision. That number is rather too high… may be due to other “Microvision” named companies that got wrapped-in the search. The latest number of issued patents is like 115 plus many more on file.

• Maradin (1 MEMS): 2 Patents (World Patents included)

• bTendo (2 MEMS): 2 Patents (World Patents included)

• Micron Displaytech (FLCOS): 144 Patents (World Patents included)

• Explay (LCOS): 29 Patents (World Patents included)

• 3M (LCOS): Very large number among hundreds of Patents

• Texas Instruments (DLP): Very large number among hundreds of Patents

• Light Blue Optics (Holographic Laser Projection): 59 Patents (World Patents included). They're using Micron/Displaytech FLCOS technology.

Now you be the judge!  All that wonderfull Syndiant technology with everything "superior" and basically "no" patents?

In any case, Pico projector for mobile devices will be a huge market.  All Microvision needs, to become a huge financial success is a small percentage of the overall market adoption rate.  In my humble opinion, Alex Tokman is set on a course to turn Microvision not like an Intel… but also Qualcomm at the same time.

Here’s another reason why…

Microvision has been at it for over 14 years and has spent close to $250 million dollars to-date on Research and Development of its single MEMS laser-scanning PicoP technology in one form or the other.  Along the way, I am sure, it has explored the dual MEMS and multitude of different combinations that come to mind. Some of these alternative technologies, I’m sure deserved ample lab time before being put on the back-burner… while others were explored and discarded without even making it to the lab.

Alex Tokman mentioned a few things as to why he believes that Microvision’s PicoP display engine is going to be successful…

• Uniqueness: nobody has lasers… nobody is doing what we are doing.

• Thin Form Factor: nobody has our size and nobody can do HD images without getting bigger.

• Longer Battery life: up to 2 hours currently vs. 45 minutes for the competition.

• Infinite focus: nobody else has it.

• Larger screen experience: from 12” to 150” diagonal under certain ambient light conditions.

• Superior small font readability: we are the only one that has 8 pt readable fonts.

• Uniformity of brightness: Images are uniformly bright from edge to edge, unlike some other competitors.

• No rainbow effect and virtually no speckle.

• Twice the color gamut (range) of NTSC

• WVGA resolution with sharper image detail and fast refresh rate

Corning and Osram [the two supply chain partners] are not only improving the laser light technology, but performance and price as well.  The next generation of Green Laser [Corning GL-2000] and Microvision PicoP display engine will bear this out.

“With the enormous size of the future Pico projector market [in terms of units & dollars] the financial rewards will certainly attract deep pocketed competitors that will infringe [and engage in unscrupulous deeds] to test your resolve, create distraction, put financial burden of litigation… all in the hopes of extracting a cheap, if not free, licensing agreement from Microvision.”

With that in mind, the questions to ask are…

• How well Microvision is prepared and how it plans to fend-off infringement to its Intellectual Property in the future… for the sake of its future?

• How serious Microvision is in not only selling PicoP display engines and associated components… but also selling “Intellectual Property Rights” to innovative Applications and Services built around their PicoP display technology?

• How strongly Microvision CEO believes in his own statement about [not] getting marginalized by bigger OEM players that it may some day call customers… like Apple, Motorola, Sony, Nokia and so on.

The availability and quality of green lasers will be crucial not only to the viability of Microvision’s PicoP display technology… but also to its financial success as a growth company.  The most recent news about green lasers only reinforces my belief that Microvision will be a huge financial success…

Japan's QD Laser has developed a compact green laser that could energize the market for high-definition micro projectors.
Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
Saturday, October 10, 2009 06:00 PM PDT

Here’s the link to the news article…


What’s so significant about this news is…

“QD Laser is planning mass production next year and the laser should cost around US$10, said Mitsuru Sugawara, the company's president and CEO, during an interview at Ceatec. That will make it significantly cheaper than the only other competitor on the market, a micro green laser from Corning, according to Sugawara.”

Famous Paul Masson once said: “We will sell no wine before its time.”

This slogan applies very well to Microvision’s lauch of the world’s first laser PicoP projector SHOWwx on September 15th, 2009.

And the good thing is: “It only gets better with time.”

Anant Goel