The mobile market is the greatest growth story ever told. Now Texas Instruments
The story so far
Over the last decade or so, cell phones grew from a yuppie luxury to an everyday necessity. Mobile mavens such as Nokia
As the market grew, the devices improved -- and formerly super-fancy features morphed into must-haves. The 4 million cameraphones in 2001 ballooned into more than 700 million in 2007, and it's getting harder and harder to find a simple non-camera phone these days. Smartphones started out as Palm
Chapter and verse
And that's where TI comes in. The markets for standard handsets, camera chips, and high-end smartphones have pretty much been staked out already. The next hypergrowth opportunity needs new features -- and TI thinks that microprojectors are it.
"We see no reason for this not to follow a path similar to the camera phone," says company spokesman Craig Moizio. "It's been requested of us by mobile phone companies and consumer electronics companies all over the world." TI just released a tiny, low-power version of the DLP technology you might have inside your big-screen projection HDTV. To complement that product, TI also upgraded its OMAP mobile hardware platform to improve its image-processing horsepower, and added support for its Pico projector. The end result of these innovations is the ability to embed cell phones with a high-quality projectable video display.
In this space, it's a two-horse race between TI and upstart projectionist Microvision
The Foolish upshot
Sharing videos and images on the go is tricky today, requiring us to crowd friends or business partners around a four-inch screen at best. By 2015, projecting the good stuff on table cloths or whiteboards will be a snap. I'm thinking two-way video conferences in any conference room or coffee shop, one-upping Cisco's
Texas Instruments should make a mint powering that next killer feature. If so, investor returns will soon follow.