Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kopin acquires FDD. Would the market benefit if eMagin was also acquired?

Kopin, a publicly-traded maker of transmissive micro displays acquired Forth Dimension Displays (FDD), which makes reflective micro-displays.

Reflective micro-displays have been used for HMD applications, but the optical system and constant light that they require provide lower contrast relative to OLED alternatives, as well as makes for a more complicated, larger and heavier optical system. Reflective displays could still be an excellent choice for high-end projection applications that use very bright light sources, but not so much for HMDs. For HMDs, transmissive or self-emitting displays seem to be the better, easier solution. Kopin makes transmissive displays. eMagin makes self-emitting displays.

How would the market benefit if a large company acquired eMagin or if there was another way to invest larger amounts of money into eMagin?

For HMD sales to really take off, display components of reasonably high resolution need to be inexpensive. You can describe eMagin products in many good ways, but inexpensive is not one of them.

One would think that eMagin's prices are driven by a limited production capacity. If their production capacity was hypothetically unlimited, eMagin could select a different - and lower cost - point on the price/quantity curve to drive market adoption and maximize their profits. If their production is limited, it would not make sense to generate more demand than they can produce. The answer in this case is increasing production capacity, which has now been announced as something eMagin is doing according to their press release. However, eMagin's cash reserves allow for only a certain level of investment and they would need to generate more cash organically to increase it. What if someone could finance two, five or ten new lines instead of just one? Would that drive quantities of quality HMD products? Would that provide a boost for the industry?


Anonymous said...
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Nobackhand said...

I meant:

Yuval, if you had to pick a company to whom it makes sense to acquire eMagin, who would you pick?

VRGuy said...

I think you can make the case for several types of companies:

- If you believe that the key application for micro-displays in the near term is defense-related uses, then a company like BAE which just acquired Fairchild Imaging would make sense.
- Thinking more towards consumer-type applications, Sony or even Apple would make sense. Having the ability to make your own displays provides potential cost advantages, as well as makes it more difficult for competitors. Apple, for instance, acquired a CPU/chip company which it uses in the iPhone.
- If Kopin were to acquire eMagin (not sure they can), they would have a near-monopoly on professional micro-displays which could allow them to have firmer control over price.
- Last, a company such as Universal Display that already makes OLEDs could decide to branch into micro-displays as well.

I'm not advocating for such an acquisition, but rather for a way for eMagin to get more capital, increase manufacturing capacity and be able to lower prices.