Archive for E-Paper
Michael Kozlowski and Peter Carotenuto of Good e-Reader have another roundtable discussion on the evolution of the Sony consumer e-Reader brand. They discuss important milestones, such as the advent of touch, the incorporation of a stylus and releasing the first front-lit e-reader.
The entire e-reader industry owes Sony a debt of gratitude for pioneering major technologies. The company has announced exclusively to Good e-Reader that they are abandoning the consumer space and that the PRS-T3 e-reader will be the last one they make. Instead, they are focusing on the business segment with the Sony DPT-S1 Digital Paper.
During the roundtable we discuss the ramifications of exiting the eBook and e-reader space, how Kobo is benefiting and how the customers are responding to dealing with a new ecosystem.
Corning is the display screen company that is very well known for their Gorilla Glass. It has been synonymous with smartphones and tablets and used for higher durability and resistance to the rigors of daily use. Corning has overestimated the market and is seeing a lack of demand for their technology.
According to the Wall Street Journal “Gorilla Glass has faced headwinds, with sales falling 17% last year as Corning worked through an inventory overhang after a bad bet on touch-screen laptops. ”
Overall, Corning reported a profit of $169 million, down from $638 million a year earlier. The worldwide tablet grew 11.0% year over year in the second quarter of 2014 with shipments reaching 49.3 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation . Apple is currently one of Corning’s largest customers and they have reported shipping 13.3 million iPads during the third fiscal quarter of 2014, compared to 14.6 million in the year-ago quarter.
When it comes down to public perception, Corning is basically known for their Gorilla Glass. What most people don’t know, is that this represents only 11% of their entire revenue stream and the majority from LCD televisions. That business jumped 62% year over year, while revenue from other specialty materials was merely flat.
There has been lots of buzz in the industry about Apple’s move into developing sapphire glass in conjunction with GT Advanced Technologies last November. Speculation is running rampant that their future devices will employ this ultra lightweight and scratch resistant technology into future products. Many experts cite shortages of the new material and that current plants cannot accommodate the demand of a massive launch. Apple alone plans for 80 million iPhone 6 models this year.
Corning will be a safe bet for the tablet industry for another few years. The market is maturing and less people are buying new devices or upgrading. We have seen similar trends plague the e-reader industry in recent years.
Many of the top e-Paper companies have developed flexible display screens that are relevant in smart watches and e-readers. The big problem is many of the internal components are not flexible, which results in bulky and cumbersome products. A new California startup has is developing a long-lasting, bendable, and rechargeable battery.
Imprint Energy, of Alameda, California, has been testing its ultrathin zinc-polymer batteries that are printed cheaply on commonly used industrial screen printers.
The batteries that power most e-Readers and smartphones contain lithium, which is highly reactive and has to be protected in ways that add size and bulk. This is why e-readers such as the Wexler Flexx One really never took off, although the screen was bendable the large battery prevented it from being truly flexible.
Brooks Kincaid, the company’s cofounder and president, says the batteries combine the best features of thin-film lithium batteries and printed batteries. Such thin-film batteries tend to be rechargeable, but they contain the reactive element, have limited capacity, and are expensive to manufacture. Printed batteries are nonrechargeable, but they are cheap to make, typically use zinc, and offer higher capacity.
3D printed batteries that are flexible and can be printed on a screen protector is especially compelling. e-Reader companies could eliminate the traditional Lithium Ion batteries and cut down on the weight of the device by almost half. This new technology could pave the way of a simple screen protector powering your eBook reader and when its low on juice, pop another one on.
E-Ink Holdings, the company responsible for e-paper found in the Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Sony may become profitable in the second half of 2014. This is mainly attributed to the growing orders for electronic tags from the US and Europe, and increased implementation for e-paper in smartphones and smartwatches.
On average e-Ink has been experiencing consistent quarterly losses in the last few quarters. Recently they reported $19.96 million dollars in the red in the first quarter of 2014.
Today Sony has begun to sell the DPT-S1 Digital Paper e-reader directly in the US. It is retailing for $1100, which is more cost effective than a few of their official distribution partners. The only catch, is that they don’t want to sell them to the average consumer.
Sony currently does not have any infrastructure to support the Digital Paper via phone, email or the internet. There simply is no way for the average person to call and have basic questions answered, such as how to load in your own PDF files. This is primarily why Sony wants to sell them to law firms and the entertainment industry, relying on their 3rd party vendors to provide all of the necessary support. Sony told Good e-Reader exclusively that “We want these to go to the right people, not just any people. We’ll definitely ask you why you’re buying this and what you’re going to use it for. This e-Reader is very expensive and we want to make sure its purchase is not going to waste.”
When calling the brand new Sony Business phone number you are basically interviewed. It is mandatory to open up an official Sony Business account and they stick with you on the phone while you receive confirmation emails. The few customer service reps Sony employs are mandated to vet prospective customers to insure they have a high level of technical knowledge and are a registered business. Corporations, LLC and sole proprietorships have the highest likelihood of being able to order a few units for themselves or co-workers. The average user will have to demonstrate that they have advanced knowledge of e-readers and won’t be bothering Sony with needless questions.
In an exclusive interview with the Sony Business Unit in the USA we asked why the device at $1100 is so expensive. They mentioned “The cost is so high because of numerous things. The first being because its writable; fully writable, huge Mobius screen, and 13 inches, that costs a lot right there. The next thing is longevity. This thing, as big as it is, has a 3 day battery life. We expect it to have that same 3 day battery life, 5 years down the road. Theres also stuff under patent, that I can’t really tell you about, but that costs a lot as well. Potential use value is another thing. This thing is THE BEST PDF device on the market right now and lawyers or university professors going through countless pages of material can be draining. This fixes all that. Also, office space is precious, and instead of having shelves and shelves of documents, this can fit it all into a thin body. This also cuts down on forests of paper being milled from trees.”
Many customers who want the Sony Digital Paper are currently flocking to Amazon, where a number of units are posted for sale. All of the units that originate from Japan, where University trials occurred last year. All of the Digital Paper e-readers available on Amazon have the Japanese firmware and do not have the ability to switch to English. Currently, there is no way for users outside of Japan to load in the English firmware and Sony verified with us they are investigating the matter. “We do not want those units to be sold bypassing our sales division.”
If you are an established company looking to buy a few Digital Papers for your business you can call the new phone number Sony launched today. 877-723-7669 Monday through Friday 8am to 6pm. It is important to note that they offer free next day shipping via FEDEX anywhere in the USA, but will not ship internationally.
Good e-Reader will have the Sony Digital Paper e-Reader in our studio next week. Expect a very comprehensive hands on review, unboxing and comparisons with other large screen e-readers on the market.
e-Readers and tablets have almost hit the glass ceiling in how they handle resolution. Pixel Density when reading makes a huge difference in the clarity and readability of fonts. New technology developed by researchers at Oxford might provide the future of e-reader tech with miniscule pixels half the width of a human hair.
The essence of the technology is miniscule layer of a phase-change material, that flips between two chemical states when hit with current.By sandwiching it between transparent electrodes, researches made pixels just 300 nanometres across. Within 5 years the screen technology should be ready for commercial prime time. Ushering in a new era of flexible, thin, high-resolution displays.
We didn’t set out to invent a new kind of display,’ said Professor Harish Bhaskaran of Oxford University’s Department of Materials, who led the research. ‘We were exploring the relationship between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials and then had the idea of creating this GST ‘sandwich’ made up of layers just a few nanometres thick. We found that not only were we able to create images in the stack but, to our surprise, thinner layers of GST actually gave us better contrast. We also discovered that altering the size of the bottom electrode layer enabled us to change the colour of the image.’
The research suggests that flexible paper-thin displays based on the technology could have the capacity to switch between a power-saving ‘colour e-reader mode’, and a backlit display capable of showing video. Such displays could be created using cheap materials and, because they would be solid-state, promise to be reliable and easy to manufacture. The tiny ‘nano-pixels’ make it ideal for applications, such as smart glasses, where an image would be projected at a larger size as, even enlarged, they would offer very high-resolution.
One of the obvious benefits of this new screen technology would be in clearer, higher resolution fonts. Current E-Ink pixels are roughly 100 microns in size (for a 250 dpi display). 1 micron pixels would increase the size of the display buffer by 10000 times. Obviously new rendering engines would need to be developed to keep the refresh rate tremendously robust.
The Onyx inkPhone is the first single screen smartphone to utilize the same e-paper technology found on the Amazon Kindle. The hyping factors behind this new device is the long battery life and the fact you can download apps from Google Play.
The inkPhone has been delayed many times before it became available last week. Onyx went back to the drawing board to implement e-Ink Mobius e-Paper, which is the same display that powers the Sony 13.3 e-Reader.
Today, we unbox the Onyx inkPhone and show you everything that comes with it. Additionally we do a first time bootup so you can get a sense on the app that ship with it and the core functionality.
Sony opened up their first eBookstore in 2004 and was selling e-Readers before Amazon released their first generation Kindle. In early 2014 Sony got out of the eBook business and closed up shop in North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. They encouraged all of their customers to switch to Kobo, as an avenue to continue purchasing content.
There is a long storied history of Sony being involved in the e-Reader sector and they released more models than anyone in the entire industry. Today we look at the evolution of the Sony brand, from the first device, until their last. Incidentally, if you like this evolution piece, check out the ones we did on Amazon and Kobo.
The Sony Librie was otherwise known as the EBR-100EP and was originally released in April 2004. It was the very first commercial e-ink device, and was sold only in Japan, but many devices were sold in the US through online retailers and with a third-party English OS upgrade. This reader was the result of a three-year collaboration between Sony, Philips, Toppan printing and E Ink Corporation.
The resolution was 800×600, which was amazing at the time and many modern e-readers still adhere to this old standard. People were surprised this could hold over 10 books with the 10MB of storage and were able to listen to music and audiobooks via the speaker and headphone jack.
The Librie was interesting historically because Sony developed their own proprietary eBook format, LRF. This model basically only read books that were purchased from the Sony Japanese book store and had no support for PDF or other popular formats at the time, such as Microsofts, Nokia, or Palm.
The Sony PRS-500 was known as “A Reader” in their promotional and marketing campaign. This was the first device that Sony marketed outside Japan and was released in September 2006. This was one year before Amazon unveiled their own Kindle reader.
Sony streamlined this e-reader and discarded the physical keyboard that was on their first device ever made. Instead, they went with a unique controller system that was in essence two joysticks. One was for page turns and the other for accessing the menu, settings or dictionary.
The first Sony reader could only store 10MB of data, and this model was upgraded to hold 64MB, which drastically increased the amount of books that could be loaded on it. No longer were customers forced to delete books they finished reading, but could store over 80.
This reader had the same e-ink screen as the Libri, but had a faster processor. On November 16, 2009, Sony announced that a firmware update is available to support the ePub and Adobe DRM format and add the ability to re-flow PDF documents”. Owners must send the reader into the Sony Service Centers for the updated firmware. You can obviously tell how infant the e-reader industry was during this era, when you had to mail away your e-reader for over a month for them to load in the new firmware for you.
The Sony PRS-505 was originally released in October 2007, the same year Amazon unveiled their first generation Kindle. This model used a new e-Ink Vizplex display screen, which provided faster page turns than the prior models. Although the overall performance was enhanced, Sony still abided by the 800×600 resolution. This also marked the first time that you could charge a Sony reader via the USB cable.
Sony increased the internal storage yet again on this model, which saw a dramatic leap to 256MB and over 500 books available to be stored. Also, adding books to “Collections” (a feature to organize and group book titles) is now possible on the SD card, unlike the PRS-500 model.
July 24, 2008 marked the first time this model received a firmware update to support the fledgling ePub format Adobe Digital Editions 1.5 and Adobe DRM protected PDF files, automatic reflow of PDF files formatted for larger pages enlarges the text to improve readability, and support for high capacity SDHC memory card. This time, instead of sending the reader in to get the update, it was provided as a free download, along with written instructions.
The Sony PRS-700 was a benchmark e-reader and broke the mold on several fronts. It was the first touchscreen e-reader and the first model to feature an illuminated screen to let you read in the dark.
Sony heavily invested in touchscreen technology with their e-readers and this was the first of many to fully adopt it. Moving in this direction eliminated the D-Pad and most keys, minimizing the footprint and making it easier to hold. This was also the first e-reader that allowed you to make highlights, annotations on the fly and take advantage of the new virtual keyboard.
The LED lights on this unit was a precursor to the front-lit technology we see on the modern 2014 readers, such as the Nook Glowlight, Kobo Aura and Kindle Paperwhite 2. It all started with Sony making in-roads and taking the risk of developing technology never seen before on an e-reader. The overall experience was really lacklustre and jaded executives so much that they said they would never make a LED reader ever again.
Sony Touch Edition PRS-600
The Sony PRS-600 was known as the Touch Edition and was released the very same day as the five inch Pocket Edition on August 2009. This reader continued the trend of having a speaker and 3.55 headphone jack and relied on the touchscreen as a way to take notes and highlights.
The Touch Edition was the first time Sony marketed their readers in three different colors, black, white and red. This model also increased the storage from 256MB on the prior model to over 512MB. It had the same resolution as the older models, so did not break any new ground on the ePaper front.
Up until the launch of the Touch Edition all Sony e-Readers were unable to read PDF or EPUB files out of the box. You had to either send them to Sony via snail mail for them to manually patch or do it yourself. This was the year that Sony firmly switched over from their own LRF format to EPUB and native PDF support.
The move to firmly embrace EPUB and PDF allowed a new generation of users to be able to not exclusively shop at Sony anymore for their books. Instead, they could deal with other retailers and use Adobe Digital Editions to sync up the purchases.
This was the first e-reader that Sony really stepped their marketing efforts on. They made a number of stock images for bloggers to use in their writeups and started blitz campaigns in the Sony Style stores and also expanded their retail distribution into countries like Canada.
Pocket Edition PRS-300
The Sony Pocket Edition was released on August 2009, the same day as the PRS-600. Sony went back to their roots by offering an entry level reader for a solid $199, which made it one of the cheapest models at this point in time.
One of the ways Sony saved many was abandoning the costly touchscreen technology and instead went with physical page turn keys, D-Pad and manual page turn buttons. It also had no MP3 audio or expandable memory. It has a similar interface to the PRS-500 and PRS-505.
Sony Daily Edition PRS-900
When the Sony Daily PRS-900 was first unveiled in December 2009 it bucked the trend of the standard six inch device and incorporated a 7 inch screen. Sony also borrowed a page out of Amazons playbook and offered free 3G internet access to the US version of the Sony bookstore.
Sony increased the memory yet again to a whopping 2GB, which allowed over 1700 books to loaded on it. It also boosted up the resolution, making it the best on the market at this time. It had 1024×600, which was ideal for reading texts in landscape or portrait mode.
The Daily Edition was the first time there were no hardware buttons at all. It was completely reliant on the touchscreen and Stylus for all of your inputs. 2009 was a big year for Sony with 3 new devices hitting the market months within each other.
This model was really expensive and set you back US$399 at the time of release. This was mainly to offset the costs in the internet access, which at the time was a pricey value proposition. It was considered to be the very best e-reader on the market and was more accessible than Amazon.
Setting The Stage for the Next Generation
August the 10th 2010 was a milestone for Sony as they released the second generation Pocket Edition, Touch Edition and Daily Edition. The company really refined all of their technology and this lineup of devices was at the height of the e-reader and eBook boom period.
2010 was the year that competition really started to heat up between Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. E-Ink, the Taiwan company responsible for all of the e-paper displays made over 3 billion in this year alone and even NEONODE, the company responsible for the IR touchscreen tech was making millions.
Sony used their advanced e-readers as an avenue for growth. They opened up online bookstores in the UK, Europe and Australia. All of these models were highly visible in the retail sector, but it was costly. Australians were paying almost 2x the retail cost in North America and most flocked to eBay or other online merchants to save a bundle.
This was the final year that e-Reader revenue was expanding at a geometric rate and it started to decrease in the following years. This was also the last year Sony released three new devices annually and only did one, focusing their efforts on the more lucrative smartphone and tablet market.
Sony Pocket Edition PRS-350
The second generation Pocket Edition was launched on August 2010. This was the first modern line of Sony readers to adopt E-Ink Pearl, which provided a better experience than the antiquated Vizplex technology.
The Pocket Edition continued to be Sony’s smallest ever Reader, clocking in at five inches. It hit the market cheaper than the previous PRS-300 at US$179. Unlike the first generation model it incorporated a touch screen, and two GB of Memory but lacked an SD Card Slot and does not support MP3 playback.
Sony PRS-650 Touch Edition
The Sony PRS-650 was released August 2010 and was announced at the same time as the touch-screen PRS-350. It is Sony’s mid-range device, priced at US$229. As the replacement for the PRS-600 model, it is Sony’s higher-scale, touch-screen edition of the reader. It has a similar interface to the PRS-350.
This reader was fully touch screen but brought back physical buttons, such as the settings, options, home and manual page turn keys. The Touch Edition is a compact and lightweight e-book reader; responsive touch-screen interface with no glare or contrast issues; high-contrast E Ink Pearl display; zippier performance than its predecessor; integration with Sony e-book store; good battery life (up to two weeks); supports EPUB e-book standard, which allows for e-book downloads from libraries; audio playback; SD and Memory Stick Duo memory expansion slots.
Sony was unprepared for the Q4 demand for the 650 e-reader. There were a few key reasons why this model in particular is so hard to purchase anywhere in North America, UK, Australia and other countries. Sony in early December recently did a relaunch of their new e-readers in Japan. This was the company’s second attempt to penetrate the often fickle Japanese market. Sony actually diverted shipments from all over the world to Japan, creating an international scarcity.
Sony Daily Edition PRS-950
The PRS950 model of the Daily Edition was released August 2010 and adds Wi-Fi to the free 3G wireless access to the Sony eBook store. The Reader Daily Edition features a high contrast E Ink Pearl technology on its anti-glare touch screen. It is otherwise similar to the older PRS 900 model.
This was the last 7 inch model that Sony sold and many users still have this model in 2014. One of the downsides is that the 3G internet has been shut off, because Sony closed their bookstore in North America. The only way to be able to connect up to the internet and use the web-browser is to utilize your personal or public WIFI. It retailed at the time for US$299.
The Sony PRS-T1 came out in October 2011 and marked the first time Sony only released one new e-reader model. The T1 was also known as the Reader Wi-Fi and was billed as the world’s lightest 6″ e-Reader with a glare-free, paper-like display designed for hours of comfortable reading, even in direct sunlight.
The big hyping factor behind the T1 was the new product design, that would shape the next two iterations of the PRS-T product line. It was the first Sony branded device to have built in WIFI to purchase books, magazines and newspapers at Sony Reader Store. Customers could also browse the internet with the built in browser. It also had a built in Overdrive APP, to allow customers to borrow books from the public library.
Sony adhered to the 2GB of memory size, which they found to be enough for your average user. They have also used the same resolution 800×600 that they employed for the last five years.
The T1 was very internationally friendly with 12 Built-in Dictionaries with 2 English and 10 others, such as French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Italian.
The Sony PRS-T2 was released September 2012 and mirrored the PRS-T1 in almost every single way. One of the most striking differences was the home, settings and manual page turn keys. The T1 had long rectangular buttons, which was a bit unwieldy. The T2 has really small buttons that actually had a ton of torque, it made interacting with them more intuitive and made the device more streamlined.
One of the big deals Sony trumpeted was their business relationship with Evernote. You could save your notes, highlights and annotations directly to your Evernote account, which made students and academics lives a bit easier. The average person really did not care and the T2 update really felt like the iPhone 4 and the 4S, in terms of a very incremental update, not really needed.
The Sony PRS-T3 is the most current generation commercial reader that is still being sold online and in many retail stores. Currently it has no built in store, but a firmware update will be adding the Kobo Store as an avenue to purchase content.
The Sony T3 was released September 2013 and bypassed the US to be launched in Canada, then the UK, Europe and Australia. This was the first true high-resolution e-readers that mirrored what Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo were doing at the time. 1024×758 is currently the gold standard for e-Reader resolution and it is hard for text to be anymore crisp.
Sony sold two different versions of the T3 e-reader line, the second many just came with a case and reading light, it was an extremely limited release, mainly just in Canada.
Sony Digital Paper
The Sony 13.3 inch e-Reader is going to usher in a brand new era of high quality e-Paper that allows for a true PDF experience. Sony has exclusivity over this brand new technology called Mobius, which they developed with e-Ink.
The screen itself is quite respectable in terms of resolution and pixel density. The resolution on the display is 1200×1600 with 150 PPI. The main attraction is using the active digitizer and interacting with complex PDF documents. You can edit documents by jotting down your own handwritten notes, or even highlight passages to go back to later. You may elect to save your notes as independent files, which makes referencing them in the future easier.
The large screen display will simply give you the best PDF experience you have ever had on an e-reader. I have personally reviewed over 83 different e-readers since launching Good e-Reader in 2009, and this was the first one to give me a quality PDF experience. It is only available at two online retailers, both who have been sold out for over a month. You can take your luck with Amazon, who sell it for a cool $1400.00.
Sony was once the most dominant player in the e-reader revolution and was the primary mover in selling hardware and eBooks. Rising competition from small companies such as Pocketbook, Onyx and Ectaco slowly whittled away market share in Western and Eastern Europe. North America and the UK saw Amazon, B&N and Kobo take them to the cleaners and eroded the profitability of the e-reader division.
Sony now intends on only marketing their phones and tablets and has given up on e-readers. The company has signed a longterm agreement with Kobo, to have their eBook app preloaded on any future Sony branded Android device. Each book customers purchase will pay Sony a small commission, similar to how Kobo cuts in indie bookstores all over the world.
The current e-reader industry would not be where they are today if it weren’t for Sony. The made one of the first mainstream touch screen e-readers and the best with LED lights to read in the dark. The 3G Daily edition inspired Barnes and Noble to offer a similar service with their first Nook 3G model. Sony may have lost their shine, but historically very significant to a billion dollar publishing industry.
Neonode is best known for their IR touchscreen technology that mainstream e-readers employed, before most of them gravitated towards capacitive touch. The Amazon Kindle Touch, Kobo Glo, Sony PRS-T1 and similar models all employed Infrared sensors alongside the bezel. This provided these companies a dramatically affordable way to incorporate touchscreen technology into e-readers that were at war with each other over lower prices. The rise and fall of Neonode reads like a textbook of the e-reader industry as a whole.
Neonode is a publically traded company and files all of their financial information on a quarterly and yearly basis with the SEC. Their accounts receivable info reads like a textbook on the rise and fall of the e-reader industry. In 2010 the company garnered a paltry $200 thousand and the companies fortunes spiked dramatically in 2011 with over $3.3 million in licensing fees. Revenue dropped by over a million in 2012 when they earned $2.1 million and in 2013 they received $1 million.
This yearly financial returns are not indicative to just the eBook reader industry, as they have their hands in cell phones, tablets and a number of other enterprises. When it comes to e-readers in 2011 they had eleven contracts signed with the whos who of industry. This included the Sony Pocket Edition, Sony Touch Edition, Daily and the PRS-T1 model. Other notables include the Kobo eReader Touch and Barnes & Noble Simple Touch Reader. In 2012 Amazon accounted for 46% of their revenue, followed by Kobo at 16% and Sony at 14%. During 2013 Neonode lost Amazon as their primary customer and instead is leaning on Kobo (19%) Leapfrog (16%) and Sony (15%) for their e-reader revenue. Finally in the first quarter of 2014, Leap Frog is their biggest customer (30%) followed by Sony Corporation (16%) and older Kobo devices (11%).
Kobo is using their older Glo and Touch Screen e-readers in their efforts to expand into international markets, because of the lower price point on outdated components. Sony on the other hand have all but bowed out of the e-reader industry with the total abandonment of their Sony Reader bookstore in North America, Europe and Australia, but still sell the PRS-T3 in many retail environments. Leapfrog primarily sells kids tablets in retail stores like Toys R US and bigbox stores.
Neonode Z-Force technology is currently being phased out by many of the other eBook vendors in the world. Amazon, Kobo, and Tolino are all employing capacitive touchscreen technology and therefore not paying Neonode licensing fees. The lack of income is not stopping them from spending $1.8 million in the last three months, compared to $1.6 million for the same period in 2013. This has led to contracts with HP for multisense touchscreen printers and developing patents for virtual keyboards.
What is the future of Neonode in the e-Reader industry? Likely they are abandoning innovation in this sector and instead are focusing on zForce AIR Technology for phones, zForce NEMO Technology for 100% Waterproof Devices and MultiSensing technology for in-car systems.
The e-Reader industry is crashing all around us and companies such as E-Ink, Neonode, Plastic Logic, Pixel QI and Plastic Logic are all diversifying away from standard e-paper technology E Ink, the undisputed leader in the screens synonymous with the Kindle and Kobo is gravitating towards digital signage, while Plastic Logic is focusing on wearable tech. It is in this spirit that a new flexible AMOLED screen is being demoed at SID Display Week in San Diego.
The flex AMOLED display was made using Plastic Logic’s truly flexible oTFT backplane technology, combined with Novaled’s OLED frontplane materials. It displays 16 shades of grey and unlike the poor refresh rate in E-Ink products, Plastic Logic has generated 30 frames per second. The market for flex AMOLED displays is set to grow to $23bn by 2023 (IHS 2014 report), fuelled by the pull for flexible displays for wearables and the Internet of Things.
Color e-Paper was first unveiled in 2010 and the intention was to have a series of e-readers to hit the market to implement the technology. Not many companies bought into it, and it was quickly relegated to being an extremely expensive novelty. E Ink has been experiencing declining revenue for the last four quarters, losing millions of dollars. This has prompted them to diversify their portfolio and focus on digital signage. It is in this spirit that they have announced a new 32 inch digital screen, employing e-Ink Triton.
There are two modes to the screen, one can display the traditional e-Ink grayscale experience with a resolution 2560X1440, while the screen in full color will give you 720P. The technology was co-developed by e-Ink and Global Display Solutions who developed the enclosure technology, which facilitates deployment in outdoor conditions with very low power consumption.
E-Ink hopes to leverage this technology for public spaces that have lots of natural sunlight. The boon of this type of screen is that it is immune to glare, unlike traditional LCD screens. The company also hopes to expand their relationship with the United Nations, who currently has the largest e-paper sign at their headquarters in New York. The e-Wall has 231 tiled 7.4″ displays arranged in a grid of 33 displays across by 7 displays high. The new 32 inch screen would add full color, use less screens and has more upside than the old method.
E Ink Holdings, the company responsible for the vast majority of e-paper displays on the Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Sony e-readers has reported a loss of 19.96 million dollars in Q1 2014.
2013 was a year of major decline for e Ink, as they were down three of the four quarters. The managed to eek out a small profit for the holiday season due to ravenous demand for new products by Amazon.
In Q1 2014 e Ink did see revenue of 9.7 million dollars US, but it was not enough to offset operating expenses and overall loses. The company has seen weak demand for their e-Paper displays and many of the companies employing their latest tech are fairly niche products. Bookeen, Pocketbook, Onyx, Tolino and a few others placed orders for their latest generation e-readers but most are not commercially available yet. Normally Amazon, which is e Inks largest partner will not release a new unit until September. E Ink is betting on secondary screens, wearable tech and luggage tags as being an avenue of expanded growth. At the upcoming SID Display Week conference in San Diego the company intends on only revealing a single new product that I was told was quite different than any other product offering in their portfolio.
Finnish coffee maker Paulig has developed the first ever e-Ink mug that uses the heat from coffee to produce a picture on the side of the cup. You’ll find a new, surprising or moving picture on the cup’s screen every single time you fill it.
The Muki will pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth and this is the source of the text, pictures of video. The company will also be releasing an official app that will help with the syncing of all media content. The energy to power the electrical components is gained from the heat of the mug’s filling. Beta testing begins this August and the mug will begin mass market shipping in early 2015.