Archive for e-ink
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.
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.
The YotaPhone has been the most outrageous smartphone concept the mobile device segment has seen. Developed by Yota Devices, the YotaPhone essentially doubles up on the value proposition offered by the conventional smartphone by adding another display at the rear. What’s more, the rear display is based on e-ink technology, which ensures the extra display has the least impact on the battery. No wonder, the YotaPhone has gone on to be determined the “Best of CES 2013″ and could well repeat the feat at the MWC as well.
Of course, it wasn’t just a fancy idea on the part of the designers to put in place a second e-ink display on the rear of the smartphone that already has a LCD screen. Yota Devices designed a phone with a secondary e-ink display that can mirror what the LCD screen is showing or provide up-to-date information of the phone’s status. This way, the phone circumvents the usual battery drain of turning on the LCD display of their smartphones to check emails, messages, or the status of various apps, through the low power secondary display. E-ink displays can also hold on to a display without draining the battery, which is a nice feature and can be used to catch up with reading or displaying a map on the back of the smartphone.
Mainstream e-readers from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Kobo have all tended to rely on e-Ink technology. This gives you the ability to read in direct sunlight, without having the typical glare you would get 0n a television, laptop, or tablet screen. There have been a few iterations of e-ink technology, but not much has changed in the last four years with the advent of e-ink Pearl. 2013 may be the year that major companies release new devices utilizing color e-ink.
e-Ink Holdings has developed Triton 2 technology, which is the next generation color display screens for your traditional e-reader. This will give customers a higher degree of contrast and better color display from the previous generation. Triton 1 had a grid of 2×2 pixels, red, green, blue, and white and used a square color filter array. Meanwhile, Triton 2 has the same color display, but instead of using square pixels it is using rectangular. It should give you 4096 degrees of color with 16 levels of each.
So why haven’t color e-readers gained momentum yet in the industry? Giovanni Mancini, Project Manager at e-Ink Holdings, told us that “one of the drawbacks is that most companies who licensed Triton 1… drove up the cost and prevented mass market attention.” This was clearly evident with the Ectaco Jetbook Color, which cost around $450 to $550.00. He went on to say “Pocketbook and Ectaco have both announced new digital readers that not only use our second generation Triton 2, but also Frontlight display screens.” This should give readers the same type of illuminated display screens found in the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo, in conjunction with a full color display screen.
Pocketbook is going to be releasing an eight inch device and Ectaco is going to be doing a 9.7 model. This should keep the prices very high, but Triton 2 is not relegated just to big screens. Giovanni elaborated that “The color filter array can be used in any sized e-reader, and is not limited to 9.7 inch screens. Of course, there are different design tradeoffs that companies have to pay close attention to. The main thing to consider is that Triton 2 will work in your standard six inch reader and many companies have been inquiring about it.”
The e-Ink Research and Development Labs have been working in overdrive pumping out E-Ink Triton 2 and producing many test models to show to particular vendors that are interested in seeing the latest tech. It seems that they have a number of six inch models with Triton 2 and Backlight technology available to show off to their regular customers. Although Giovanni did not confirm which companies are looking at the tech, you figure the bread and butter customers are Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. I would also suspect that Onyx Boox, Bookeen, and a number of indies are looking at it, too. You can expect that if one of the bigger companies does a next generation e-reader with a color display, they all will do it. Just like when Barnes and Noble released the Simple Touch Reader with Glowlight, both other companies followed suit within six months and released their own models.
Frontlight technology ended up being the e-reader standard in 2012 and color e-ink will rise in 2013.
We have never seen smartphones for the mainstream market that offered twin displays, but leave it to the Russian broadband provider Yota to accomplish the feat. The innovation is that this device will feature an E Ink panel beside a standard LCD screen. It still is a work in progress but it really offers a lot of potential.
First off, it’s a smartphone running Android Jelly Bean with a 4.3 inch display packing in a respectable 720 x 1,280 pixels. However, things take an exciting turn once you flip the phone over, where you’ll find another display of the same 4.3 inch dimensions based on E Ink technology with a resolution of 200 dpi. The design is plain and does not even come with the usual Android buttons as seen on other Jelly Bean based smartphones. Instead, swiping actions along the bezel do the trick. Sure it will take a little getting used to, but it is pretty easy.
Coming back to the E Ink screen, the best thing that can said of it is the battery longevity even while the display is active. You can have your things-to-do list or map displayed on E Ink without having to worry about battery getting drained. The E Ink display isn’t as responsive as one would expect, though Yota developers have said they are already on it. Only the bottom part of the E Ink panel is capacitive and does not yet respond to touches for most apps.
As such, the E Ink display is not yet fully functional but can be ‘fed’ via the front LCD panel. This can be done in two ways. Tapping on a symbol on the front right corner starts an application and what is in front will get displayed on the E Ink screen. A V gesture anywhere on the OS will also have the same result.
Those at Yota have stated their immediate challenge is to make the E Ink panel fully functional while also increasing resolution (to 220 dpi) and contrast. A new case to house the two displays is also in the cards to make the smartphone more contemporary. Meanwhile, catch up with the video below for a live demo of YotaPhone.
Popslate is developing a new product that will add a secondary screen to the back of your Apple iPhone to provide a true e-ink experience. It basically offers a blank slate and you can load your own images on it! These can be pictures you took via the camera or side-loaded from your computer. You can think of it as a very slim secondary case that can dynamically change the graphics to suit your mood. Not only can static images or a slideshow be established, but also urgent notifications, sports scores, maps, notes, calendar, talking points—you name it—will now be available at a glance.
Popslate technology bridges the gap between a dedicated e-ink reader and a smartphone. It provides the best of both worlds and you can read your Kindle books on the dedicated screen, in full e-ink glory. The core technology features a very rugged 4 inch diagonal E-Ink screen. It weighs less then 75 grams and the dimensions are 5.35” x 2.56” x 0.54”.
The company is currently seeking funds to develop the project and are nearly there. They asked for $150,000 via the micro financing website Indiegogo. They have currently raised $143,000 and there is around a month left to get the rest. It looks like this project will move ahead and iPhone users can finally get a taste of the dedicated e-ink experience.
The once extremely popular e-ink based displays have been witnessing a steady dip in popularity now that Amazon, one of its biggest backers with the Kindle line of e-readers, is showing increasing reliance on LCD displays. The electronic paper display has hit upon a novel idea to keep itself relevant in the fast changing tech scene. If present gen e-book readers prefer a LCD screen for its ability to render full color displays among several other positive attributes, e-ink can find application in the most unlikely device: smartphones.
Smartphones can have a second e-ink based display which will serve as a smallish e-book reader. Not too small, though, as the general trend with smartphone displays is that they all seem to be fast approaching the 5 inch dimension that was once considered a bit big for smartphones. All the usual bonuses associated with e-ink remain intact, the first of which is its extremely frugal battery demands. Extended periods of reading off your smartphone won’t boil down to rushing to the charging dock every few hours.
Another positive aspect to having a second e-ink enabled display on your smartphone is that it can be used to display an image which will remain intact even when the phone’s battery is down to its last ounce of juice.
The prototypes were shown off to phone manufacturers at IFA and the response has been quite overwhelming. One phone maker that preferred not to be named is already sold on it, with more expected to join the fray. This might even include Apple and though such a feature would no doubt add an extra layer of appeal to the upcoming iPhone, it will be interesting to see how Apple responds to it, given the company’s penchant for exclusivity.
e-Ink Holdings is poised to engage in rapid growth in Q3 and Q4 of 2012. The company has had a fairly lackluster year so far, with no major e-readers being shipped, other then the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. With new devices imminently being released by Sony, Amazon and Kobo, the rest of the year looks quite bright.
e-Ink is responsible for providing the display screens on 75% of all the major e-readers on the market. The company recently purchased a controlling interest in SiPix Technology Inc. They intend on purchasing the entire company by the end of the year and the main reason is the companies patents.
According to the Taipei Times e-Ink reported that The company yesterday released its second-quarter results, showing a net loss of NT$818 million (US$23.2 million) in the quarter, or a net loss per share of NT$0.76, which was larger than its net loss of NT$787 million, or a net loss per share of NT$0.73, in the first quarter. On a yearly basis, E Ink reported a net profit of NT$1.33 billion, or earnings per share of NT$1.22, the company’s data showed. Consolidated revenue was NT$4.48 billion last quarter, up 17 percent sequentially, but down 35.35 percent from NT$6.93 billion a year earlier. Gross margin dropped to 0.6 percent from 1.1 percent in the first quarter and 32.5 percent a year ago, the data showed.
To improve profitability, going forward E Ink will focus on applications other than e-books in the future, chairman Scott Liu said, adding that demand from e-tags for convenience stores and supermarkets would explode next year, which would help to drive up growth.
So what has happened this year for the company? Well the Kobo Touch entering the Japanese market accounted for almost 100,000 shipped units. The Nook Simple Touch with Glow, also used e-ink Pearl Units.
This year has been one of the quietest on record, with no major company unveiling any new products. This will change going forward with the new Sony PRS-T2 to be released within the next month and new e-readers by Amazon are expected by October. Kobo intends on releasing a new Tablet PC but there is no word yet if they are expanding upon their dedicated e-reader lineup.
SiPix may pride itself as the world leader in electronic paper and display innovation, though from now onwards, it will have to flaunt its status from under the aegis of rival E Ink Holdings. For the AUO subsidiary has now been acquired by Taiwan based E Ink that can be considered the world’s largest supplier of electronic paper displays. As per an announcement by SiPix Technology, 82.7 percent shares of SiPix would be bought over by E Ink as the first part of the takeover process. A complete buyout would take place later towards the fourth quarter of this year in a deal that is likely to be around $50 million.
Present gadgets that we see in the market using displays made by e-Ink include e-book reading devices such as the Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. SiPix Technology is also into making displays that find applications in diverse fields, such as 3C labels and credit cards, have a production capacity of about 400,000 a month. Also, one noteworthy feature of the technology used by SiPix is that its display is capable of playing back video files, though at a very slow speed.
In a statement issued by E Ink Holdings chairman Scott Liu about the company’s take-over of SiPix, the chairman said: “E Ink is committed to growing the ePaper market and the purchase of SiPix shares is part of our long term growth strategy. Our goal is ‘E Ink On Every Smart Surface’ and we are continuing to make investments in technologies that will open new markets for our ePaper displays.”
Engadget posted a video today of Plastic Logic’s prototype flexible color ereader. The screen, which boasts over 1 million transistors and has over 4,000 hues, can maintain its flexibility and its image integrity at the same time.
This development was possible in part due to the success of Plastic Logic’s basic ereader, the Plastic Logic 100, that made its way into Russian classrooms to deliver digital textbooks to the academic setting. The shaved model, which doesn’t have wi-fi and relies on cable to transfer texts to the device, was funded partly through a large investment from Rusnano; the success of that transaction and resulting device set the stage for the new flexible screen device.
“The color is provided by a filter laying on top of the grayscale screen. The screen underneath the filter has a resolution of 150 ppi, and that gets cut in half because you need 3 pixels to do red, green, and blue. There’s also a 4th pixel which is left alone (it shows the white/black of the underlying screen. The RGBW are arranged in a 2 by 2 grid in the layer on top of the Plastic Logic screen…This is a flexible screen, and so is the filter laying on top. Plastic Logic had to design the filter so it flexes at the same rate as the screen so it wouldn’t get bent out of shape. That is an interesting trick.”
In theory, this would achievement would improve the e-reader display while possibly reducing the cost, once it’s available for mass production of course; neither the price nor the launch date for mass market hasn’t been released yet. However, the scaled down device that Plastic Logic made available in Russian classrooms was still upwards of $400 per unit, so don’t count on a huge savings just yet.
How about a Kindle e-reader glowing in full e-ink glory? Well, that seems to be the way the next Kindle might function. The new Kindle using front lite glow might strike a blow to all of the screen lights and aftermarket book lights. It is thought to have a blue white glow that the front lit displays that will be easy on the eyes and be a firm departure from LCD which burn your eyes. Further, there will also be the feature to control brightness to adjust the glow as per individual user preference. That said, the light will still be way softer even in full blast than the same from a back lit LCD screen.
Right now, Amazon offers the Kindle Fire with a vibrant full color LCD screen though battery life is still mentioned in hours or at best days. That’s a far cry from the weeks or even months of backup time that e-ink based displays boasts of and a new Kindle with a front-lit e-ink display can work wonders in the dedicated e-book reader market.
However, let’s be reminded all of it is still very much in developmental stages and there is no way to state definitely if such a Kindle will indeed make it to the market. But then again, all of it is the result of Amazon acquiring the Seattle based company ‘Oy Modilis’ that prides itself as a world leader in light-guide technology. The acquisition was completed in the latter half of 2011 and was done with none getting an inkling of it. However, it would be a waste if such technology is not to be included in future Kindles which again keep the hopes alive of such a Kindle coming our way sometime in the future.
The world’s first electronic paper display that is made of plastic has entered production, LG announced paving the way for the next generation of e-books readers that could be bent to some extent — 40 degrees to be precise from the center of the display. What this means in real life scenarios is that users will be able to bend their e-readers as they would usually do when reading a magazine or newspaper. However, unlike newspapers, the real advantage with e-readers made of the LG produced electronic papers is that users will also be able to catch up with the e-mails or other such tasks while reading.
The new e-Paper by LG features a inch XGA display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels and relies on e-ink to render monochrome display of texts and images. However, the biggest USP of the EPD is its ultra thin construction. This has been achieved with the use of plastic that is as thin as a display guard used on cellphones. This has resulted in the EPD being just 0.7mm, just about a third from similar EPD that are made of glass. The use of plastic has also made the LG produced EPD weigh just 14 gms. This in turn has added to the durability of the display, something brought forth in repeated drop tests performed by LG. The e-papers were dropped from a height of about 1.5 meters though the displays not only survived each time but also very devoid of any scratches. Even hitting the displays with a small urethane hammer failed to leave a mark on the e-paper displays.
“With the world’s first plastic EPD, LG Display has once again proven its reputation for leadership and innovation with a product we believe will help greatly popularize the E-Book market,” said Mr. Sang Duck Yeo, Head of Operations for LG Display’s Mobile/OLED division. “Based on our success in mass-producing plastic EPD, we are excited as we look toward applying concepts from this experience to future developments like plastic OLED and flexible displays.”
LG has also come up with a unique method of manufacturing the e-paper displays, the same technique that is usually used to manufacture LCD screen with temperature maintained at 350 degrees. For this, LG had to develop the plastic material that could withstand the production process in a high temperature environment.
Coming to the actual products based on the e-papers, LG stated the displays would reach ODM in China soon so that the first devices based on the e-paper expected to reach markets by early next month itself. However, its the European market that would be the first to have the e-paper and LG hasn’t stated which other countries or regions come next.
Amazon had lit the Kindle Fire with the hopes of blazing into the booming tablet market. While it has been largely successful (the second largest selling tablet after the iPad and the best selling Android tablet so far), an unlikely victim of the raging Amazon Fire has been its very own stable mate, the Kindle Touch. In fact, Amazon is already reported to have scaled down on it Kindle Touch production plans in view of diminishing demands for the Kindle e-reader.
The trend though shouldn’t be too unexpected, for what you get from the Kindle Fire is a tablet device with a vibrant full color display. The Kindle Touch, with its rather drab e-ink display, seems to be running out of favor with the e-book reading section as well as Kindle loyalists, even though the Kindle Touch costs less than the Fire and also has a better battery life.
However, it’s not just the Kindle Touch that is feeling the heat from the new breed of low cost tablet devices (such as the Nook Color or the Kobo Vox). What these devices offer are most of the tablet market’s available features, if not all, and they won’t leave consumers’ pockets battered and bruised. Color e-ink displays are available, though LCD based displays that these tablet/e-readers sport still has an edge with better color reproduction qualities that color e-ink displays are not capable of right now. As such, the future may well belong to the LCD based low cost tablets and e-readers unless e-ink comes up with something more vibrant.
However, e-readers are not alone in seeing a reduction of sales compared to tablets; the traditional PC market seems to be shrinking as a fallout of the tablet effect. In raw figures, sales of PCs to tablet devices were a strong 20 to 1 in 2010. Just 2 years down the line, the gap has narrowed down to just 6 PCs sold to every tablet PC. While PC sales remain largely stagnant, the tablet market has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, tablet could be seen marching ahead of PCs by 2013.
“Tablets are on fire, there’s no question about that,” said Brad Silverberg, former Microsoft executive, who is now a venture capitalist in Seattle.
Apple, the one company that has had the biggest gain in the tablet segment with its iPad though isn’t amused at the proceedings.
“From the first day it shipped, we thought — not just me, many of us thought at Apple — that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market, and it was just a matter of the time that it took for that to occur,” said current Apple CEO Tim Cook though his predecessor Steve Jobs too shared the same vision.
However, while tablets will continue to find favor among consumers, tablet still cannot be considered a replacement of the PC. Tablet devices may score on portability and ease of use, though it’s still focused more on content consumption than content creation. Until that changes, PCs will continue to be relevant even though they might not have the strength in numbers they once had.