Catalyst Converter


1 : a substance (as an enzyme) that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2 : an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

When I tell people that I meet that all my money's in one tiny photonics technology company and that I'm so into it that I write a whole investor resource blog all about the company, they usually raise an eyebrow and say something like, 'that's a random thing to be into.'

I suppose in one sense, they are right. There are thousands of companies that one can buy shares in. And there are thousands more mutual funds and countless derivatives...there are oceans of opportunity for investors. Why Microvision? Why not some other company? What is it about the opportunity represented by this stock and this moment in time together?

As I see it, there are powerful forces in play that will touch each one of our lives as the next wave of technological progress gathers itself to surge up onto land. The first and most obvious thing to consider is that mobile data networks are coming into being. Cell phones by the millions can access the internet. But the experience is painfully lame due to the limits of the tiny LCD screen through which we interact with the device. The screen can't really get larger to accomodate web browsing and multimedia, since the device's sleekness and small form factor are key selling points.

As video games on cell phones become more popular and graphics capabilities of phones become more powerful, as cell phone manufacturers and service providers search for ways to get a return on their multi-billion dollar investments in ever broader cellular data networks, as Microsoft and other companies look to leverage the cell phone as another channel to reach millions of customers...

The pain becomes acute. The need to resolve the seemingly divergent goals of sleek, small mobile devices and large screens for delivery of high-margin multimedia content becomes overwhelming. The visualization bottleneck stops content from being delivered. It stops profits and drastically slows return on investment for network operators. And these are some big investments.

But there is only one way to resolve the problem. It is the abandonment of the only way most of us have ever interacted with mobile devices. We have to turn away from the entire notion of a backlit screen with pixels fixed in place on a substrate that is so many inches wide and so many inches tall.

Because when your pixels are fixed in place, you have a device with a size. You have a physical object that takes up space. To meet the divergent goals of small and big at the same time, we need to reclaim size and space and take them out of the picture of display design. We will replace them with time.

So far no one has challenged me on the existence of the visualization bottleneck. It seems to be an indisputable fact. And whatever catalyst opens up the bottleneck and allows the torrents of data and information services being held back to become available to each of us will unlock an unimaginable surge of economic growth. New applications, new subscription fees, new ways to access and interact with the internet and with each other. Our current 'caveman style' cell phone with its archaic constraint of a 2" screen will seem hopelessly quaint, and totally useless in comparison.

Well, guess what, gang? If we accept the premise of the bottleneck, then we also accept that the catalyst that resolves the bottleneck and brings about all this change is going to be very, very valuable. Perhaps incomprehensibly so. And it's not like you have to sort through a bunch of competitors fighting it out for the right to resolve this problem.

It's Microvision. That's all there is to it. Because they are the only display company who doesn't make physical displays. They make virtual displays where size and space do not factor into the equation of how big an image can be. Using their scanning micromirror, they leverage our own physiology, the nature our vision, to bring information to us in the most efficient way possible. Only the light that's needed to express the content is generated. Not a single photon is wasted. By contrast, LCD screens with their backlit screens are shameful energy hogs scattering light in an expensive, omnidirectional wave of futility.

The moment that we find ourselves in also has an MVIS stock price that does not reflect the intrinsic value of being the world's only virtual display company, nor the company's many patents on light scanning, it's $30M stake in Lumera, it's phenomenal start to 2005 that has included:

The best ever first quarter for revenue in the company's history;
A contract award and license agreement with the world's largest medical company;
A partnership with General Dynamics and the US Army to accelerate adoption of Nomads for soldiers and armored vehicle drivers;
The creation of the astonishing Spectrum SD2500 full-color, see-through display for military pilots;
The recent announcement of a new architecture for low cost, high-resolution widescreen consumer displays intended for gaming and emerging portable media applications;
The attention of Bill Gates who sees Microvision's scanning displays as a channel to reach more people with Microsoft operating systems and applications.

All these things happened in 2005, and yet MVIS shares trade for a little bit less today than at the beginning of the year. I see this as a disconnect. I see this as an opportunity of historic proportions. I see this as a gap between reality and perception that will be reconciled quickly. I see the rapid approach of a moment of truth. When the catalyst is converted from opportunity to a stunning new reality.


  1. Very convincing case for MVIS. Thanks.

  2. Nicely written piece. It makes me wonder whether virtual displays will replace ALL physical displays at some point in the future, or whether they will serve mostly in situations where display size is a critical factor. For example, the question I've seen floating around is how do you increase the display size of the coming all-purpose cellphone-iPod-camera-browsers without increasing the whole unit's size? Since I am new to all this, my observation will probably be well-chewed over stuff to most of you. But what I see is that the cellphone of the future will still have a phyisical display (probably an OLED), but will also be able to project a large laser image on a flat surface and/or on the retina. I do not think HMDs will solve the problem. I would appreciate any comments on my observations. TIA, Jad

  3. Hey Jad,

    thanks for writing. I think the way to look at this whole thing is from the software side. what kinds of applications are coming to the all purpose cell phone device?

    my bet is that it is augmented reality. where context-sensitive, location-based information is superimposed on your field of view. this pretty much requires the 'eyeglass form factor' of cell phone.

    cell phone TV is interesting but not really the greatest cell phone app since you can't look at it while you're walking around which is the whole point of cell phones.

    I don't expect retinal displays to replace ALL physical displays anytime soon. But all they need is a few mainstream consumer apps for MVIS to become a big player.

    the thing about your idea is, why have a handheld that you have to hold up to a wall or hold up to your eye, if you can just wear a pair of eyeglasses and meld the digital info with real reality?

    this just seems more elegant to me.


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