Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Microvision: Embedded Pico Projector Holy Grail

Every time the competition has something good or beats Microvision to the punch, I hear the same argument…

“Microvision’s money play is and has always been embedded pico projector.”

After hearing the same mantra time after time, especially when Microvision is “all show and no action” in response to a competitor, I’m beginning to finally see the light…

Microvision can not produce any significant quantities of SA pico projectors due to production and technical issues associated with green lasers. To this day, green laser issues continue to haunt Microvision… and it is over 18 months ago the bad news about delays was initially brought to the attention of investors on this board.

After 18 months of fully knowing the green laser issues, Microvision still continues to operate with an army of administrative and support staff that continues to burn over a million dollars a month. There has been some reduction in SGA and R&D expenditure… but it is not enough considering the GL issues have been around for so long and continue to be.

The green laser production and technical issues will be resolved some day, either by Corning or by Osram or by both… but that may take a few more months. Current funding of $31 million by selling 11 million more shares in a fire-sale at $3.00 is a clear indication of the reality of green laser production issues.

Now, think about this for moment: “we talk about the embedded pico projector coming to market towards the end of 2010?"

 Is that just a coincidence or there is something more sinister behind this time line?

Yep, you guessed it… it’s the same problematic green lasers that are being touted as second generation green lasers that will be the holy grail of the embedded pico projectors!

Call it whatever you like… but to me it is the same damn green lasers [with some upgrades] that are just taking too long to get commercially ready for mass production. The problem is, Microvision management can’t tell the truth to the stakeholders… because there will be massive dissent. Administering truth in one dose is not a pretty picture at all, but neither are the small doses of revelations [and leaks] that we encounter on a daily basis.

Then again, there is another possibility that Microvision management is just naïve, ignorant, and stubborn in believing that the market for pico projector Standalone Accessory unit is small or that it will disappear when the embedded version shows-up on the scene. Unless the embedded pico projectors gets so damn cheap [like free] and get embedded in every thing digital that a household may decide to buy in the future, I continue to believe that there will be a huge existing market for SA units for a long time.

Consider this…

• If you had to pay for it and had a choice… I’m sure you would rather have one SA pico projector that gets passed around in the family or gets connected to whatever your projection needs are in the list of priorities.

• There are tens of billons of digital devices that exist all over the globe… acquired for trillions of dollars in sunken cost. We are not about to discard our existing digital devices any time soon in favor of purchasing new ones with embedded pico projectors. Having said that, we will buy a SA pico projector to extend the life cycle [and our investment] of our favorite digital gadgets.

• Stand Alone pico projectors have three dimensions of freedom that embedded do not...

o Stand Alone pico projector can be passed around in the family… like single resource shared by many.

o Stand Alone pico projector can be attached to any digital device that has a video out… like one-to-many device. On the other hand, embedded is just one-in-one device.

o Cell phones, smartphones, and laptops are considered personal devices and we don’t really like to hand them over to share. On the other hand, SA pico projector can easily be shared.
• In the near future, dedicated Mobile TVs will make a big splash in the personal and public viewing of media content… both in real time, a well as, for time shifted mode. Stand Alone pico projector is a natural [and more suitable] companion to mobile TV than an embedded smartphone or cell phone would be.

• Can you imagine watching a football game with your friends on an embedded smartphone… and then all of a sudden your smartphone rings to alert you of the incoming call? Your choices would be to either ignore the call and apologize to your friends or interrupt the game to take the call? When you embed a pico projector in a smartphone, for example, the functionality of one device is blocked [or is compromised] in exchange for that of the other… and that’s not so good.

• Over a billion households in energy starving Asian and East European countries are potential customers for low energy consuming mobile TV/Projector combo [not embedded] that can be used for personal or public viewing of media content … with the flexibility of connecting the SA pico projector to other digital devices when a need arises to do so.

• It is much more convenient to use a SA pico projector for media content viewing [from a mobile TV] or watching a movie on your combo DVD player/ SA pico projector… from the comfort of your bedroom.

So, there you have it.

In my opinion, the SA pico projector market is lot bigger than the market for the embedded, and it will continue to be so… for as long as the embedded version is an option that costs significant amount of money.

What’s significant amount of money?

Well that depends on who is paying for it?

Besides, uncle Woo died many years ago. So it’s just you and me fending for ourselves.

For my money, I’ll take the Stand Alone pico projector over embedded [in something] anytime.

Anant Goel