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STMicroelectronics acquires IP from projection specialist bTendo

The chip maker wants to equip smartphones, digital cameras and laptops with integrated projector

STMicroelectronics has acquired the intellectual property of Israeli company bTendo, and has hired most of the staff, as it aims to increase the popularity of consumer electronics with integrated projectors, it said on Monday.

The company hopes that next generation smartphones, digital cameras and laptops will increasingly be equipped with a projector.

So far, with the exception of Samsung Electronics, vendors have shown little interest in integrating projectors with their devices. But STMicroelectronics hopes to change that with the help of bTendo by decreasing the size and lowering the power consumption of projector hardware.

The two companies have already worked together on a projector that fits in a module smaller than 1.7 cubic centimeters and less than 5 millimeters thick.

Samples of that module are now in the hands of potential customers, according to STMicroelectronics. The company isn't elaborating on who those vendors are and when the first products are likely to arrive.

Still, getting vendors and consumers on board will be challenging.

The integrated projector is an interesting concept, but its success will depend on the price, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC. An integrated projector can be useful for specific scenarios, but if the devices are much more expensive compared to a product without a projector people won't buy them, he said.

The market for so-called pico projectors was approximately 3 million units last year, and is expected to grow to 58 million units by 2015, market research company Pacific Media Associates said in January.

Seventy-eight percent of consumers were very interested or somewhat interested in getting a pico projector, compared to 53 percent in 2009, according to a survey conducted Pacific Media Associates and published in January.

No financial details of the deal between STMicroelectronics and bTendo were announced.

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