Archive for E-Paper
Sony and E Ink announced this week that they have developed a new 13 inch e-reader. This new device uses a screen called Mobius, which is making the rounds in Japan and SID in Vancouver next week. At a recent event in Japan, Diginfo filmed a brief hands-on of the device, which should give you a sense on how it handles PDF files and making highlights/annotations.
The Sony E Ink Slate will feature a capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1,200 x 1,600 pixels and 150 DPI. This new slate will be aimed at people who need to read technical PDF documents and edit them on the fly with the accompanied stylus. It will also have bundled WIFI and the ability to increase the memory via the Micro SD card from the 4 GB of internal memory.
The one important thing to bear in mind is that this is not the finalized product. It is a prototype that should be available this summer, and by then there will be firmware tweaks and other features will be greatly enhanced. Still, large screen e-readers have the ability to gain some strong traction for people enamored with technical PDF documents.
E Ink has just unveiled a new large screen e-paper display screen that will soon be hitting mass production. Mobius uses a TFT technology that will enable the development of much lighter and rugged products. Mobius displays can weigh less than 50% of an equivalent glass based TFT. This is particularly important for mobile products requiring larger display areas. The new Sony 13 inch writing Slate announced yesterday will use this same display screen.
The new Mobius e-Paper screen was developed by Sony specifically for use with EPDs in cooperation with E Ink. Sony has now transferred the technology to E Ink for mass production. E Ink will start mass production of the world’s first 13.3 flexible EPD display in 2013. The resolution on the display is around 1200×1600 with only 150 PPI, which is fairly solid on a large screen display.
“We have been working with Sony for over 10 years, and we are extremely happy to bring this technology to mass production,” said Giovanni Mancini, director of product management for E Ink Holdings. “Development of this new digital paper product by Sony confirms our belief that the e-paper market is still strong.”
There is no word yet on the exclusivity of the Mobius screen technology, or if Sony has a license to introduce the product to the market first before E Ink will allow other vendors to use it in their products. Likely, 13 inches might be too big for your average e-reader, but some fringe companies like Onyx, Wexler, Ectaco, or Pocketbook may be looking to deploy it.
E Ink has been fairly stagnant in e-paper innovation over the course of the last two years. The company showed off the Triton 2 technology at CES this year, but it has failed to catch on in the market. Many e-reader companies we spoke with said that your average customer will look at an color e-paper screen and say the colors look washed out. They will inevitably compare it to the iPad and not even bother. About the only thing they have done to any success with their Pearl HD with front-lite that has done fairly well on the open market with the Kobo Aura HD and Kindle Paperwhite.
Late next week, when SID Display Week starts in Vancouver, we will bring you all hands on exclusive video of the screen and how it performs. We will also ask the hard questions on logistics and deploying it for other e-reader companies.
Samsung has not been doing much with the Liquavista color e-paper it purchased in 2011 and instead has been focusing on screens for its tablet and smartphone line. The company has been actively trying to sell off its investment to companies for the last two years, with not many showing interest. Amazon has confirmed today that it has acquired the technology and we are likely to see a true color e-reader within the next calendar year.
I spoke to Kurt Petersdorff, the Commercial Director of Liquavista, around a year ago to find out what made this e-paper different than e-Ink. The essence of Electrowetting technology is that it is highly scalable. From a manufacturing point of view, it is easy for existing LCD plants to incorporate Electrowetting into its process. It is basically the same entire procedure to create the screen, except instead of using Liquid Crystals they use a different fill. One of the huge benefits of Liquavista technology is that it is flexible, which means it is much more robust. It is similar to the same type of display that LG uses in the Wexler Flex One. If you have ever dropped an iPad or an iPhone, you know the LCD glass breaks rather easily because it is extremely inflexible.
Amazon confirmed the acquisition by email today, stating “We are always looking for new technologies we may be able to incorporate into our products over the long term. The Liquavista team shares our passion for invention and is creating exciting new technologies with a lot of potential. It’s still early days, but we’re excited about the possibilities and we look forward to working with Liquavista to develop these displays.”
Below is an exclusive video where Samsung and Liquavista talked about the e-reader industry and what their technology actually does. We will be hearing a lot more about this in the coming months, as inevitable rumors of new Amazon products gain traction.
Sony has just unveiled a new flexible 13 inch e-Ink Slate that should make waves in the educational and consumer e-reading fields. One of the things that this new device has going for it is the slim build. It is only 6.8mm thick, which makes the overall profile slimmer than most smartphones, like the iPhone.
The Sony e-Ink Slate will feature a capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1,200 x 1,600 pixels and 150 DPI. This new slate will be aimed at people who need to read technical PDF documents and edit them on the fly with the accompanied stylus. It will also have bundled WIFI and the ability to increase the memory via the Micro SD card from the 4 GB of internal memory.
There is a severe lack of large screen e-readers on the market since the Amazon Kindle DX was discontinued last year. There are a few brands, such as Onyx Boox, Pocketbook, and Icarus that market these types of e-readers, but they are often found wanting in performance and cost a bundle. Sony says it will be released this year and should appeal to the demographic of people that absolutely need a large screen and long battery life.
E Ink Holdings, best known for the screens found on the Kobo Aura, Kindle Paperwhite, and Nook Simple Touch, is raising some money. The company is selling 60 million new shares in a bid to get enough working capital to sustain its business.
The e-paper company has seen some dramatic loses in 2012 of around $25.4 million. The company axed its former CEO Scott Liu, who had been with the company since 2009. E Ink is in a state of flux, as the current climate of the e-reader market is not enough to remain profitable.
In order to sell more shares of the company, E Ink was showing off Seiko electronic watches, credit cards, and electronic shelf labels at an event in Taiwan. The company is hoping to diversify the number of products in its portfolio and reassure investors.
We have talked to a number of key people in the e-paper industry and they are drawing parallels between e-Ink and Neonode. Neonode once had 80% of the e-reader industry using its IR display screens. The first generation Kindle, Kobo, and Nook e-Readers all used this technology to power their screens. The biggest customer Neonode had was Amazon, which accounted for 40% of their business in 2011. Barnes and Noble was the second largest customer with 26%, followed by Sony at 21%, and Kobo with 11%. This amounted to a grand total of $5.8 million dollars earned in 2011. In early, 2012, the CEO of Neonode announced that it lost Amazon as a customer and then lost everyone else. Most of these companies switched to the capacitive touch screen technology and higher resolution that E Ink was offering.
The industry is worried right now that E Ink might meet the exact same fate as Neonode, and both companies have failed to remain relevant outside of the e-paper segment. Still, E Ink does have contracts with a number of large e-reader companies, and its business should be sustainable for the next twelve months. There will be a new Kindle, Nook, and Sony e-reader released within the next five months using the new HD displays.
SID Display Week is going to be kicking off in our own backyard May 19-24, 2013 in Vancouver. Good e-Reader will be live on the scene looking at some of the innovative new display technologies that may find themselves on e-readers and tablets in the near future.
A number of major companies will be in attendance, such as Apple, Dell, HP, and Motorola. International system integrators also have a strong showing, including LG, Samsung, and Sharp. Many senior technical staff will also be attending to talk shop and network.
Good e-Reader will be attending Display Week for a number and of days and we are making ourselves available for interview and meeting requests. If you would like to give us a private demo and talk about some of the new things you have cooking, please send me an email and we can talk!
Betaworks garnered some attention in the tech world when it purchased social media site DIGG. Today, it was announced that the company has absorbed the read-it-later service Instapaper.
Instapaper originally launched in 2008 and quickly became one of the most beloved apps for the read it later crowd. It is available for PC, MAC, iOS, Android, and a myriad of other platforms. Registering with the PC service only involves choosing a login name and password, no other information is needed. This software basically prompts you enter a slew of links to websites, such as http://goodereader.com/blog/, and imports the entire website into Kindle friendly format or ePub. Once these ebooks are saved on your PC, you can load them onto your e-reader or tablet via Windows Explorer or Calibre. Betaworks also has a bevy of dedicated apps that you can read on, too.
Some cool options that this gives is being able to save an entire website to text and then change the font, font size, margins, and more. Once you get it looking the way you want, you can save it as an ebook. The mobile apps for iOS and Android both cost money, but are a worthy investment.
There is no word yet on the direction or future of Instapaper and how it will look in a year’s time. The main developer has promised to stay on as a consultant, and likely will see further integration with Digg.
Digi-Key is best known for distributing and sell components for semi-conductors and electronics. Today, the company has signed a new distribution agreement with E Ink to get new e-paper technology on a global scale. It seems the two sides are going to focus on existing and next-generation display panels, and then dive into uncharted territory.
Mark Zack, Digi-Key vice president of global semiconductor products, said that “low-power devices fill the general needs of the electronic industry. E Ink’s products to customers around the world will bring unparalleled value. We expect the new E Ink agreement will expand the distribution of a new range of products.”
This new agreement will see new relationships being established with companies that E Ink does not have any traction with. Digi-Key will hopefully broker new deals for e-paper display screens to be used in retail and the commercial sector. We have also heard that E Ink is seriously considering getting into other markets with a high demand for low-battery screens. The big rumor right now is keyboards, watches, and clothing.
If you are hoping for the upcoming Sony PRS-T3 e-Reader to have the same type of Glowlight that to the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo has, you might be let down. Recently, Sony has announced that the company is very resistive to the idea of incorporating a front-lit display in any of its next generation e-readers.
Stephanie Lang, head of group IT division of Sony France, said in a recent interview, “We believe that the integration of lighting from the sides is not necessarily helpful and may even degrade the reading experience. It moves away from the traditional reading experience on paper. By cons, we believe it can be useful to have a cover that integrates a light that can guide the reader as he wishes. But we do not seek to incorporate lighting directly into the hardware of the reader.”
The restiveness to incorporating a front-lit display stems from one of their old e-readers, the PRS-700. Sony actually released a very terrible reader with a side-lit display in 2008. This has put a sour taste on the whole concept, Stephanie said. “We had concluded that the reading lights are aimed really heavy readers who seek an experience close to the paper, and light alter the experience. So we focused on other features that the book is not, as the ability to enlarge the font to enhance reading comfort.” She went on to say “Studies we conducted have shown that the presence of an integrated lighting system was not a criterion: it is a popular feature from time to time, but that’s all. We prefer to focus on the rest of the reading light to provide a highly efficient device, without this feature, it offers optional via accessories. This is the bias that we take.”
It seems at least one major Sony spokesman, who does know a thing or two about the company’s European strategy, is saying that the company will not release a front-lit e-reader. Obviously, this is probably not indicative to the company’s overall game plan for the future of e-readers, but it does not bode well for people who want to read in the dark without an additional light.
Rogers Canada has just started a new promotional campaign that will give out a free Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G e-Readers. In order to attain the Kindle, you need to activate a new smartphone on select 3-year FLEXtabT agreements. When you activate your phone, you need to visit the website, and then enter your details. All orders will shipped out in a few days via UPS! This is a fairly solid deal that gives users free 3G internet access and you don’t have to pay monthly internet fees.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has just submitted a new patent that will change the way our Kindle e-Readers and Tablets function. Right now these devices have reached a level where the hardware internals and battery life can’t really get much better without drastically increasing the cost. The new patent will have your unit actually powered and major processes handled by a remote server or primary station. Tablets and e-readers will transform into all-in-one ultra portable display screens with all processes handled by base stations.
The essence of this patent will be to offer very low cost display screens, where the battery, processor, RAM, and other major hardware will be handled by a base station. The patent outlines many innovative approaches. For example, a school can set up multiple base stations and when the screen is in a certain proximity, the screens will wake-up and be able to access the internet and have ebooks and other course material wirelessly delivered.
The major claim from the patent is “A computer implemented method, comprising: under control of one or more computer systems configured with executable instructions, detecting a portable display within range of a first primary station, the portable display including a power receiving element and a data receiving element, the first primary station including a data transmitting element and a power transmitting element; wirelessly receiving power from the power transmitting element of the first primary station to the power receiving element of the portable display; wirelessly receiving data from the data transmitting element of the first primary station to the data receiving element of the portable display; detecting the portable display within range of a second primary station, the second primary station including a power transmitting element and a data transmitting element; wirelessly receiving power from the power transmitting element of the second primary station to the power receiving element of the portable display in response to detecting the portable display within the range of the second primary station; and wirelessly receiving data from the data transmitting element of the second primary station to the data receiving element of the portable display.”
Could you imagine a future where the real cost of the tablet is the hardware base station? Much like a PC, it would be easily upgradable for more CPU, RAM, and internals. The small cost would be the actual display screen, which would be negligible. You can see from looking at the patent information that the CEO of Amazon is thinking about the future, and how costs can be lowered.
E Ink Holdings has been developing e-paper displays since 2009, which are found in most modern electronic readers. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Sony all feature the high-resolution displays in their current generation lineups. Recently, CEO of E Ink Scott Liu has resigned as the Chairman and CEO of E Ink and Vice Chairman Felix Ho has been named interim Chairman and CEO. With the shift in management and declining revenues, what does the future of E Ink hold?
We caught up with the head of research and development Giovanni Mancini about what exactly is going on with the company. Whenever there is a shift in the top levels of management, it is often an indication that things are about to be shaken up.
Do you know why Scott left E Ink?
As announced in the company’s press release, Scott Liu had led E Ink for many years, and he made a personal decision to step down as the Chairman and CEO of E Ink Holdings that is not related to the direct running of the company. Thus, E Ink would like to respect his privacy. Scott will continue to act as an executive advisor. E Ink is fortunate that Vice Chairman Felix Ho has become the interim chairman and CEO of E Ink Holdings. Felix has extensive experience in the display and EPD industry, and with E Ink technology.
Is E Ink refocusing its strategies from e-readers to watches, price tags, and keyboards and other things?
E Ink absolutely remains committed to e-readers, as e-readers continue to be a very large and significant market for the company. E Ink is expanding its strategy to include other products such as ESL (price tags) and watches. E Ink technology is ideal for many consumer and industrial applications, and E Ink is very excited to be working with designers across multiple industries on some innovative new products, including many in the e-reader space.
It seems E Ink has been on the decline the last few quarters, and it seems to me a management shakeup was needed to bring the company in a new direction. Are you privy to any of this?
The change in management was totally due to personal reasons, it does not signal a redirection of the company.
Are you aware of anything new and exciting happening at E Ink?
E Ink is constantly working on many new and exciting products. The company is presently working on a schedule for products announcements, and it expects to announce some in the near future.
Do you know how marketing is going on with Triton 2, or if any other mainstream vendors have expressed interest in it?
Per your conversation with E Ink during CES, the company continues to market its Triton 2 product and expects to start shipping to customers in June of 2013.
Is E Ink interested in acquiring Liquavista?
As a matter of policy E Ink does not comment on such inquiries.
e-Ink Holdings is best known for producing the easy to read screens found in your favorite e-readers. Everything from the Kindle Paperwhite to the Kobo Glo all use these screens. They draw less power and are able to display images without hampering battery life. Typically, an e-reader lasts months without a re-charge. Concept design firm Yanko might have developed the next mega Kickstarter project by utilizing e-Ink technology.
Keyboards have come a long way from the cheap ones you would find in an electronics store a decade ago. Mechanical, Wireless, Backlit, and gamer keyboards abound. One good thing about Yanko’s concept keyboard is that each key can be mapped with any type of symbol or functionality that you want. If you speak another language, your e-Ink keyboard could update all the symbols to your mother tongue. Sure some keyboards have LED or OLED keys to do this, but the e-ink edition virtually draws no power and is more affordable to produce.
Th e-Ink concept keyboard was originally designed by Maxim Mezentsev and Aleksander Suhih. At this point, it is basically a proof of concept, but I think something like this would really take off. Many people would love a chance to get a wireless keyboard that lasts for three or four months. Many people would also love to map MMORPGS with symbols and macro keys, then switch back to their regular keyboard on the fly. Simple and elegant.