May 22, 2003 — Neonode Corp., a Swedish developer of mobile communications and media devices, recently announced it will use the SiSonic silicon micromachined microphone from Emkay Innovative Products of Itasca, Ill., in its soon-to-be-released Neonode N1 portable multifunction device.
According to Neonode President Magnus Goertz, the solid state microphone saves space, facilitates manufacturing and will ultimately be less expensive for Neonode.
The N1 combines a cellular phone with an MP3 music player, a digital camera, a personal organizer and a portable game machine. It works on GSM cellular telephone networks, the most popular technology worldwide, and includes connectivity for a wireless networking technology that lets a hand-held device stay connected 24 hours a day, much like a computer wired to the Internet.
The device, which features stereo headphones and a color screen, will initially be targeted toward the youth market, Goertz said. It runs software developed by Microsoft Corp. for hand-held computers and phones.
Neonode is hardly the only company converging cell phones, hand-held organizers, digital cameras and other devices. Handspring Inc., the Mountain View, Calif., hand-held organizer developer, successfully merged a PalmOS organizer and a cellular phone with its Treo lineup. Danger Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif. developer, also recently commercialized a pocket-size data and voice device with a built-in digital camera. Mainstream phone developers like Nokia have integrated digital cameras into mainstream mobile phones. However, Neonode is the first to use a MEMS microphone.
With a traditional microphone, “you must use manpower to assemble it,” Goertz said. By contrast, the SiSonic microphone is just one more chip on a circuit board.
Goertz, who founded Neonode with a partner in the summer of 2000, added that the onboard assembly will be more cost efficient than adding a separate component when the product goes to volume manufacturing. Although it is currently more expensive to use than conventional technology, Goertz said the SiSonic mike would eventually be a less-expensive component when unit sales gear up.
However, “they don’t plan on doing it in high volume right away,” said Mike Adell, SiSonic product manager at Emkay Innovative products. Instead, he confirmed, the goal is to roll the product out gradually. Goertz said the device will be introduced in Europe this summer, followed by Asia and then the United States. Currently, he said 16,000 units were pre-ordered through his firm’s Web site.
“We will be starting up larger volumes for the August/September time frame,” Goertz said. The goal is for the 17-person company to garner enough interest in its product this summer to generate sales for the year-end holidays. Goertz said he and his partner, Thomas Ericsson (no relation to the Swedish mobile phone developer) financed the company out of their own pockets.