Archive for E-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 it created and worked on, in conjunction with E Ink. On the first day of SID Display Week, we were walked through some of the core features, but was that really enough? We received hundreds of emails, comments, and messages asking us to look deeper into what this has to offer. We have heard your pleas, and will show you mercy. I won’t rehash the specs of the hardware, you can read all about it HERE. There are some very exciting elements to this device that no one but us has managed to capture.
The PDF reading is the main attraction of the 13.3 inch e-reader and gives you a true, full page experience. Obviously you can take notes and make annotations by either writing with the stylus or the full virtual keyboard. If you make a note, you can save that page as an independent file. If you have a big PDF document and make all sorts of edits, you can save it as a “Workspace” into its own PDF document. This ensures you have your virgin file with no edits, and then your changed document with all of your notes.
If you have a large document with many notes, you can actually initiate a new feature that will allow you to look up all of the notes or changes you made on the document. A search feature will bring up a list on the right hand side, listing every single change you have ever made. If you tap on any of them, the page will open.
There was some confusion over the Stylus or Digitizer that came bundled with the Sony e-reader. Some people were saying the screen would not work without it and there was an air of uncertainty. I found out that you can do everything via touch. The stylus is useful for drawing notes or making changes. You can turn the pages and interact with every single menu with your hand. There is a small button on on the stylus that acts as an eraser. Click on a body of text or notes, and you can delete it.
There is a nice fully featured internet browser, that is accessible via a WIFI connection. Browsing the internet does not cause a massive amount of page-refresh issues, that normally plague lower-end devices. This might be perfect for people who check news websites, such as Good e-Reader!
E Ink was very clear that the firmware and overall design might change on the commercial release. I noticed it did not currently have EPUB support, which means you will not be able to load in your own books. Likely, we will see Sony’s own ebook store loaded on the device, and it will allow users to purchase ebooks directly from their region’s store. Currently, Sony has been opening a number of new online stores in Europe, UK, Australia, and many other markets. It would make sense for the company to incorporate this into its technologies.
Currently, the prototype is at many different events during the next few months. Sony is listening to people’s opinions and incorporating changes into the firmware and hardware. My suggestions were to hot-key the stylus eraser button to do different things. As an example, it would be nice to turn to the next page with a click. I also suggested the ability to pinch and zoom. It seems that you can’t make the fonts any larger or increase your zoom levels. This would be essential, as some people prefer bigger fonts or like to focus on specific bits of information.
Onyx intends on releasing the first fully featured E Ink phone in the 3rd quarter of 2013. We got our hands on the final hardware model of this new phone and the only thing that will change is the firmware. One of the big hyping factors behind this is the front-lit display, much akin to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and the one week battery life.
The Onyx E Ink phone takes e-paper out of the e-reader world and transplants it in the very competitive smartphone arena. It features a 4.2 inch screen and runs the Android 2.3 operating system. The resolution is 480×800 and is powered by a 1 GHZ CPU processor. Battery life should last you around one week, which we can attest to, seeing as the device we had was being constantly fiddled with for the last 36 hours and was still at 90%.
The phone itself is rather brilliant! It does not suffer from the page-refresh issues that plague most modern day e-readers. If you are text messaging, adding a contact, or typing in a phone number, it’s instant. I never saw any ghosting on the screen and there is a button you can press to turn on the front-lit display. This will ensure that you can use the phone in low-light conditions, something you could not do with e-paper a few years ago.
Aside from text messaging, contacts, and the phone itself, it comes bundled with an e-reader app. It does not give you much in the way of editing font sizes or highlights, but since it runs Android, it would be very easy to install your favorite. I verified that in the settings menu, you can click on enabled Unknown Sources, and sideload in your own applications. This means you can install Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Overdrive, and whatever digital reading app that tickles your fancy.
The one thing that impressed me was the responsiveness of the phone. Every menu instantly loaded and typing was a breeze. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and pressing down on keys pops up, with little to no LAG. The long battery life should also be an endearing factor, if you are frequently on your phone you should get a full week out of it, which is quite amazing. It also has a microphone that allows you to search the internet by voice, or even type notes and text messages by voice.
It remains to be seen if E Ink phones will truly catch on. You will not be able to watch videos, but you can listen to music via the 3.5mm headphone jack or the rear facing speaker. You can load your own content on it via the Micro USB cable and also use it to charge the device. The battery is swappable, we even took the rear casing off to test it.
Honestly, I was super impressed we managed to get our hands on this phone, with no one walking us through it. When Peter and I were at SID Display Week on Monday, it was locked in a glass case. Obviously, cases do not scare me, and I see it as a personal challenge to flex all of Good e-Reader muscles to make it happen. After a few emails and phone calls, we had our hands all over this new E Ink phone.
Lastly, when will it come out and how much will it cost? We heard Q2-Q3 2013 it will be out, the pricing is more of an unknown. Basically, ONYX is shopping this around to various carriers all over the world. If a few buy into it and place some large orders, it will cost less to make, due to the large volume. There are many factors that will influence the price, but right now it is a complete mystery. Worldwide availability is also an unknown. All we do know is that it is only 3G, and should be compatible with most major phone networks, but even E Ink did not know the bands that it is using.
Sid Display Week is happening right now in Vancouver, BC. This conference mainly showcases the latest screen technology for smartphones, televisions, advertising, and, of course, e-readers. We talked to some of the leading companies today and got their outlook on how the current e-reader landscape is shaping up and where the industry might go later this year and into 2014.
The e-reader industry is not as alluring as it once was. Over 24 million e-readers will be shipped this year, according to E Ink and Freescale Semi-Conductors. The competition and radical price-drops in this sector are benefiting customers with low-prices of some really quality stuff, but it’s dissuading many companies from entering in or getting out.
Neonode, Mirasol, Plastic Logic, Pixel Qi, Bridgestone, and many other companies have entered the competitive landscape of e-readers over the course of the last few years. Almost all of them have abandoned making devices and either got out completely or turned to licensing their technology to other companies. Bridgestone and Plastic Logic got out of making devices and abandoned the sector altogether. Pixel Qi turned to licensing its plastic display screens to government, military, and private businesses. Even the head boss Mary Lou Jepsen jumped ship and is now working for Google as the Head of the Display Division. Qualcomm decided against participating in the e-reader space and instead is working on smartphones and wearable technology. Neonode has something cooking in its RND labs and announced a new IR display screen, but details are minimal.
E Ink, the e-paper found in almost all of the current generation e-readers on the market, is optimistic. Most companies that make readers based on their technology will continue to do so for the next few years. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Pocketbook, Ectaco, and Bookeen remained committed to the spirit of digital reading devices.
So how will e-readers change in the next few years? Freescale thinks that many companies will begin to shift towards its i.MX6 Solo processors. The chip has 256 KB of L2 Cache and compatible with 32 bit DDR3 memory chips. It will provide e-readers with faster page turns and a better experience than the current crop of i.MX5 processors that are getting a little bit long in the tooth. We will also continue to see larger screens come down the pipe, as evident in the new Sony 13.3 inch e-reader. It is geared towards academics and PDF enthusiasts. E Ink verified with us that the new flexible display panel can be tailored towards any size, it depends on the cut. So we may see a resurgence in 9.7 inch e-readers that have the weight reduced significantly.
Onyx Boox, Qualcomm, Yota, and E Ink think that secondary e-paper screens are the way the industry is moving right now. Google Glasses is the poster child for wearable technology and the internet is rife with Apple iWatch rumors. The truth is, e-paper watches have been around since the Pebble captured the Kickstater imagination by offering a pseudo e-paper experience and pairing it with your smartphone. Onyx, Yota, and Mirasol all think that secondary displays on the back of your phone is the way to go. E Ink formed a relationship with Japan based Seiko a few years ago. They have been pumping out e-paper watches for awhile, and the technology is fairly refined.
It will be interesting to see if the broad non-urban type of customer would adopt a secondary display on their phone. Potential uses include Maps, Google Now, Text Messages, and other features. There is an air of uncertainty at SID on the customers, but vendors are expressing a ton of interest.
There is one major trend this year at SID in relation to e-paper: advertising. We talked to many small companies involved in digital signage, and they are all marketing e-paper price tags, screens merged together for retail signs, freezer tags, and grocery store fare. E Ink announced two major new technologies at SID, and focused on this emerging sector. I think the company is realizing it can’t have all of its eggs in one basket and is branching away from its bread and butter market. Many small companies have told us that grocery stores and retail are responding in a big way. The tech is still too expensive to replace paper in the short term and only the majors can afford it. Still, there is something alluring at being able to update billboards and price tags on the fly. There is strong WIFI integration with this technology, so you can change the price without having to replace them manually. If it was raining outside, you could set a dynamic program to reduce the prices on umbrellas. Lord knows we need them in Vancouver.
To sum it all up, e-readers will remain relevant for the next two years. They will become faster and more responsive. There will also be more choice in the different sizes of screens available, as many vendors are starting to deviate from the six inch standard. You will start to see more e-paper in the retail and produce environment, and secondary display screens will start to emerge.
Sony announced a new 13.3 inch e-reader last week that uses technology the company developed internally and in conjunction with E Ink Holdings. The new Sony e-Paper reader will seriously appeal to anyone that has lamented that their PDF reading and editing experiences have been sub-par on six inch devices. At SID Display Week in Vancouver, we caught up with Giovanni Mancini, the head of RND at E Ink, to check out the new Sony e-Reader.
This was the lightest device I have ever played with in the history of e-readers. The 13.3 inch screen is beguiling to behold and you would figure from looking at it that it would weigh significantly more than the Kindle DX. In truth it weighs only 12.6 oz, compared to the Kindle DX, which weighs a hefty 18.9 oz. The e-paper screen glides like a feather when dropped, as I found out.
The screen itself is quite respectable in terms of resolution and pixel density. The resolution on the display is 1200×1600 with 150 PPI. It is dubbed Mobius by E Ink and the company is actively shopping it around to the who’s who list of the e-reader world. 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. 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. I have received emails from airline pilots, heads of research divisions, and publishers about what device they should buy to read their PDF Files. I would implore everyone to buy this Sony one when it comes out; it changes the game. I don’t normally gush about things like this, but when it comes to school, work, newspapers, gaming guides, and technical PDF documents, this is solid.
The software right now is quite buggy, and we often found ourselves hitting a function key many times before the feature loaded up. The digitizer pen has a small button it that allows you to erase things when pressed. One of my concerns, along with some of the other media people there, was that the “erase” button was placed where you naturally grip the pen. This may result in you pressing down on it during your natural tendency to grip the stylus like a pencil. We noticed that when you are holding down the button, you can’t launch any commands or click on any of the GUI buttons. This forces you to write on the e-reader in a very unconventional way that may take some getting used to.
The one thing that was clearly evident at SID Display Week this year was the gravitation towards e-paper price tags, billboards, and advertising. E Ink Holdings is putting a priority on expanding outside of its bread and butter e-reader market and focusing on new applications.
Spectra is a new E Ink technology that is quite different from the full color Triton technology. It gives you the very crisp black and white shades, but also a new color: RED. Many companies, such as Target, KMart, Macy’s, and a slew of others, have their main logo in red. This technology is geared towards digital price tags and ranges from a few inches to six and greater. The intention behind Spectra is to offer commercial operations to implement digital price tags, with the sale logo or numbers to really pop out and grab peoples attention. It can be dynamically updated via WIFI or a dedicated internet connection. For example, E Ink hyped the fact that if it is raining outside, the companies could put an instant discount on umbrellas and prices would be automatically updated.
AURORA technology focuses on sub-zero temperatures, which is ideal for the freezer, milk and yogurt isles in super markets. It will function indefinitely at -25 C and is appealing towards labs, medical, and logistics markets. These new tags can be custom tailored from 2, 2.7, 4.41 and 7.4 inch screens. It can also be updated via WIFI, so you can update the prices on the fly, without having to worry about people updating them manually.
The spirit behind these new e-Paper technologies is to do away with the costly expensive of paper every month for retail stores and supermarkets. Most of the big stores spend close to $50,000 a month on tags, paper and other aspects of making pricing available on produce, microwave dinners and everything else. The new e Ink signage aims to streamline the process, and allows the IT department to update prices on the fly, and even dynamically offer deals. If its a really hot day, they could discount or increase the cost of water, if something is in season, they could reduce the prices, the applications are endless.
“The Internet of Things” is the new mandate from Qualcomm, as the company transitions its Mirasol technology from tablets to wearable tech and smartphones. Many industry analysts wrote off Mirasol e-Paper technology as dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, as Qualcomm as updated the screens for a new breed of devices.
SID Display Week 2013 just kicked off in Vancouver and I had a chance to catch up with Jesse Burke, who is the new public face of Mirasol. He explained that Mirasol technology had an existing roadmap and that it has deviated from it in small ways to brave a new frontier of wearable technology. There were three new products showcased at the vent, such as a smartwatch, a secondary screen for a phone, and Mirasol technology as the main display on new smartphone.
One of the big adjustments to Mirasol across the board was fitting everything on a single screen. In the past, Mirasol had two different layers of screen for its line of tablets that came out a few years ago, including the Bambook Sunflower and the Kyobo. This gave the user a more washed out approach to images and colors and the tradeoff was great battery life. Qualcomm managed to merge the two layers, producing rich and vibrant color.
The Mirasol smartwatch was the main attraction at SID and had a 1.2 inch screen and lasts a few weeks before needing a re-charge. The intention behind this product is not just to tell the time, but to be an extension of your digital life. On average, we reach for our smartphones almost 100 times a day, to check Twitter, Facebook, messages, and missed calls. The watch will ping you with Google Now updates, Facebook Home, and other essential apps. Mainly, it will serve as a secondary screen that will assist you in staying on top of all the action, without constantly referencing your bulky phone. Currently, Qualcomm is shopping this technology to various vendors, and we will likely see something happening towards the end of 2013 and mid 2014.
Smartphone screen technology is a huge focus for Qualcomm right now and the opportunity is ripe for Mirasol to sweep in and gain some market share. The average phone has a better life of 12-24 hours, depending on your use. Mirasol will extend this up to six times, which amounts to hefty savings over LED and OLED screens
There were two phone displays shown at SID, one was a fully featured smartphone, using Mirasol, and the other was a second display screen on the back of the phone, that draws parallels with the upcoming Yota. The smartphone had sported a 5.1-inch panel with a stunning resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and 577 ppi. This phone is in the RND phase and is not commercially available yet. It is likely we will have to wait until 2015 to really see it in action. The second display was on the back of the phone, and mirrors the watch in terms of form and function. It allows you to have a secondary screen with dedicated apps running on it. Useful, but it remains to be seen if multi-screen smartphones are viable with your average consumer.
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.