Tag: e-ink

E-Ink eyes up Christmas bonus after record Q3 results

The world’s largest e-reader display manufacturer posted record high results last quarter, and declared that e-reader devices are “recession-proof” in the run up to the holiday season.

E-Ink Holdings, which produces the displays used in 90 percent of the world’s e-readers, has reported growth of 20.6 percent from the second quarter, hitting $74.5 million.

According to the Taipei Times this pushed net profits for the whole of the year to $174.3 million, meaning an 18.8 percent increase from the same point last year.  This meant the firm notched up record earnings of $0.161 (NT$4.86) per share.

Chairman Scott Liu said that the figures show that growth will continue in the run up to Christmas. 

This is because he believes that, in times of hardship, people return to more traditional entertainment like reading.  So with the global economy set to implode, it seems that by Christmas 2012 people could resort to bashing rocks together for fun, with any hopes of an iPad 2 in their stocking forcibly vanished.

Liu’s expectations for increased demand are based on accelerating demand for electronic paper displays and increased sales of LCD panels.  Shipments of e-readers are expected to easily hit company predictions of between 25 million and 30 million units this year.

With one of E-Ink’s main customers, Amazon, releasing its Kindle Fire at relatively low prices, Liu reckons that there will be plenty of demand for a cheaper tablet alternative as cash-strapped consumers eye-up cheaper Christmas gifts.

While shipments for LCD panels were modest last month, Liu believes that a competitive pricing strategy from Amazon will see this increase rapidly.

Waterstone's hints at surprise e-reader launch

Waterstone’s, one of the few book shop chains left in the UK, has decided it wants to enter the e-reader market. 

It confirmed to TechEye in a statement today, “We can confirm we are developing an ereading proposition to launch in 2012. We have no further information to share at this time.” So the details are thin. But Barnes & Noble decided to go down that route with the Nook and performed surprisingly well against main competition Amazon.

Using the word ‘proposition’ masks exactly what Waterstone’s is planning, but in a note to TechEye, we were told: “We just don’t want to nail ourselves down to what exactly it might be, hence the word propostion. Most people are saying ereader, which we are comfortable with.”

Amazon’s Kindle is still top dog in e-readers. The key to its success can be explained partially in its relatively low price point and the fact that it uses E-Ink instead of a screen, a Taiwanese-owned technology which aims to replicate the reading experience and eliminate nuisance stuff like screen glare and paper.

If Waterstone’s wants to compete in the market it would do well to consider E-Ink and, like Barnes & Noble, release a dedicated brand product which stands up on its own to Amazon and the Kindle.

Of course, the surprise announcement, with a launch date penned in for as early as next year, suggests Waterstone’s has had the plans on the cards for some time now and may have already found a hardware partner. It will need to get the mix right and undercut Amazon, unless it is truly revolutionary. 

Despite the plans, TechEye hears some people actually prefer to read hard and paperback books over sleek electronics. They make your bookshelf more interesting, for a start, as opposed to e-readers which, it could be argued, turn literature into a cheap commodity like the MP3 did to music. The other side of the argument is e-readers get people reading again.  

*EyeSee Main picture is of the Waterstone’s in Reading, where not much reading gets done.

Amazon revolutionises Kindle and social reading

Amazon continues to redefine the social reading experience with innovative publishing solutions which will shake-up the ways we read going forward, and address the key issues holding e-readers back.

Yes! The Kindle will now ship with page numbers. Previously a feature – Amazon and its plaudits say you don’t need them in the age of electronic gizmos remembering for you – it has u-turned and accepted that page numbers are, just sometimes, in certain circles, useful.

“Here you are, book club nerds!” Amazon shouts, perched atop a pot of e-gold. “We are generously adding page numbers!”

Since the Kindle is touted as an accessible device aimed at the unwashed, the most unwashed of all are students who were looking forward to carrying one device instead of the back-breaking backpack full of dog-eared texts. It makes sense for them to have page numbers. Or for any book at all. Having to find a passage on the back of “about two thirds the way into chapter nine” or quoting percentages is frankly crap and will never make its way onto the Richard and Judy Book Club. Still, just like a real book, page numbers will  be there.

Amazon speaks for itself: “Our customers have told us they want real page numbers that match the page numbers in print books so they can easily reference and cite passages, and read alongside others in a book club or class,” the Kindle says from its bog.  

“Rather than add page numbers that don’t correspond to print books, which is how page numbers have been added to e-books in the past, we’re adding real page numbers that correspond directly to a book’s print edition. We’ve already added real page numbers to tens of thousands of Kindle books, including the top 100 bestselling books in the Kindle Store that have matching print editions and thousands more of the most popular books.  

“Page numbers will also be available on our free “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” Kindle apps in the coming months.”

Also introduced will be a new layout of newspapers and magazines to provide a “quick snapshot” of the news.

The latest software update, 3.1, will also urge readers to rate their books online as soon as they’re done – which can, if you want, be seen across your social network. Interesting browny points for Gurdjeff, not so much for Jilly Coopers’ “The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous”.

Samsung buys colour electrowetting upstart Liquavista

Samsung Electronics is making a buy in the LCD sector.

It has splashed out on Liquavista, a company that may have come up with a new way to create LCD screens through a technique called “electrowetting”. Besides sounding like a dubious Berlin nightclub, it also allows for bright, colourful and easy-to-read displays in any light environment while using minimal energy.

Liquavista, a spin-off from Phillips Research Labs, says that Electrowetting – which can be applied to e-readers, mobile phones, media players and other mobile devices – could eventually replace the traditional LCD screens.

Currently the most well known electrowetting technology company on the market today is E-Ink, whose displays are used in the Amazon Kindle. LG Display, which supplies panels for Sony’s Sony Reader, is also in a partnership with the company.

However, the researchers have so far hit a brick wall when trying to apply electrowetting to colour screens.  

Liquavista, a smaller company to E Ink, thinks it has cracked the colour crisis. It claims to have created a colour display that uses 10 percent of the power of current LCD panels while doubling the transmittance.

In a statement Samsung said: “With the acquisition of Liquavista, Samsung aims to strengthen its leadership in (the) next-generation display industry by pioneering the application of electrowetting in e-paper and transparent displays.”

It would not disclose the amount paid.

Ipad owners also buy Kindles

The myth that iPad owners are using their shiny toys to read books has finally been shattered after Amazon revealed that Apple fanboys can’t get enough of its eBook reader.

For a while now, the iPad has been seen as a rival to the Kindle because you can read an ebook on the beast.

However new figures from Amazon show that many of its buyers are actually iPad owners, which begs the question, if the iPad was a great way to read a book, then why get a Kindle?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that the Kindle is a companion to more expensive LCD devices like the iPad and assorted Android tablets, more of which are due to arrive in 2011.

He said that many who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet. Tablets are being used for games, movies, and web browsing and while Kindles are for reading, he said.

The reason is that the Kindle weighs less and has the paper-like Pearl e-ink display that reduces eye-strain.

It doesn’t interfere with sleep patterns at bedtime, and works outside in direct sunlight, it also does not go through battery very fast.

Bezos claimed that the Kindle’s $139 price point was important too. It is low enough that people don’t have to choose.

Many had seen the rise of tablets as the kiss of death for Kindle and other eInk products. However it looks like they will have a place in the mobile revolution. The iPad and its ilk though are getting less relevant – unless someone comes up with a hybrid LCD, e-ink screen.

Freescale and E Ink begin colourful partnership

Freescale and E Ink have begun a colourful partnership. The pair have teamed up to create “one of the industry’s first monolithic colour eReaders.”

The i.MX508 processor is built on ARM’s Cortex A8  and claims to help OEMs with energy efficiency and system cost savings. It is also said to support next-generation eReader panels, which are expected to feature larger dimensions, faster page turns and better resolution. The processor supports panel resolutions up to 2048 x1536 pixels at 106 hertz.

In addition it allows manufacturers to use a single platform for entire eReader ranges, including both greyscale and colour E Ink displays. This is said to enable software sharing across platforms to speed up market times.

“Freescale and E Ink have been constantly raising the bar on eReader performance,” said Sri Peruvemba, chief marketing officer for E Ink Holdings. “The i.MX508 processor driving E Ink’s Pearl and Triton display platforms is another step toward meeting market need for best-in-class monochrome and colour electrophoretic displays.”

But this seems to be an open relationship with Freescale also working with eReading service Kobo, which uses the i.MX35 processor in its Kobo-branded eReaders. According to the company Kobo’s collection of more than 2.2 million books, newspapers and magazines, and relationships with major book and consumer electronics retailers will help it grow in the eReader space.

Eink goes colour

Electronic paper display maker E Ink has come up with a new version of the technology which can produce thousands of colours.

The technology called E Ink Triton, can handle the 16 levels of grey found in current ereader displays, as well as thousands of colours, with both text and colours readable in direct sunlight.

Eink claims that the colour epaper displays are up to 20 percent faster than previous E Ink displays, making page-turns and rendering even more usable. The first product to sport the colour E Ink is apparently out. It’s an ereader from Hanvon, makers of the Wisereader, although we are yet to see details on it.

E Ink chairman Scott Liu, in a statement. “Triton will compliment our monochrome product line to enable new markets.”

The Triton colour epaper is a reflective electrophoretic display that can handle images with 4 bits of depth for a total of 4,096 colors, plus the same 16 levels of grey existing E Ink monochrome displays can handle.

Like traditional epaper Triton holds its image even when the power is off. It is still slower than conventional displays. A page can take a full second to update. However it is readable in direct sunlight and has a viewing angle of virtually 180 degrees.

On the downside it offers a scant 10:1 contrast ratio which means that the colour is not that great, particularly in comparison to an LCD display. However in sunlight you can’t see an LCD display and Eink hardly uses any electricity.

Where it is good is producing maps, graphics, charts, graphs, comics and advertising into ebooks.

E Ink says it can make displays with resolutions in excess of 200 dpi at sizes ranging from 2 to 12 inches. A normal printed graphic is 300 dpi.

It expects the technology to be widely seen in the next few months. 

LG says it will mass produce flexible 19 inch e-paper

LG Display has said that it is developing a new generation of colour and flexible e-paper. It hopes that these may go into future products such as e-readers or tablets.

According to an SEC filing the company expects to begin mass producing 9.7-inch colour and 19-inch flexible e-paper, which is the display used in e-readers on which text appears as it would on printed paper.

The company’s 9.7-inch IPS LCD screen is already used in Apple’s iPad, and LG also supplies the 9.7-inch e-paper display for the Amazon Kindle DX e-reader. It is thought its new creations could go into future generations of e-readers or tablets and the 19-inch could possibly used for e-readers the size of traditional newspapers.

Another avenue LG may be considering is how an interactive, larger sheet of e-paper could work with progressing advertising – think interactive posters.

Competition for e-paper is going to heat up. Each company realises it must do something interesting and innovate in a way others aren’t, and excel while they’re doing it. Earlier this year Samsung showed off colour e-paper, which it said was capable of displaying video (although it now seems the company has pulled out of the market) and Fujitsu also announced a colour panel this year. 

Flexi screens worth $2.4 billion by 2015

From a modest figure of $34 million this year, the market for flexible displays is set to grow to be worth $2.4 billion in 2015 and as much as $30 billion in 2020.

That’s according to a research report from Displaybank, and the main driver of growth in the market will be e-books and advertising until 2011.

But after that date, flexible displays will have an alternative use in mobile phones, according to the research outfit.

The figures, however, are predicated on companies successfully developing display devices, backplanes, substrate, material, process technology and manufacturing equipment, said Displaybank.

The ideal specs for flexible displays includes e-paper which is thin, light, rugged, flexible, foldable, and bendable.  Many vendors are already working on such specifications. Earlier this year, Plastic Logic said that it was readying a colour version of its flexible product,  the QUE ProReader.

The following chart is courtesy of Displaybank, and shows the phenomenal growth in flexible displays it forecasts.

flexible displays growth

Kindle shipments trail as Amazon prepares for next big push

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader has been lagging behind the competition in terms of shipments, according to Digitimes Research. Overall shipments from manufacturers to vendors in April-May 2010 reached 740,000 units with the Barnes & Noble effort leading the way, accounting for 37 percent – the Kindle managing just 16 percent.

However, signs have been pointing to a Kindle update and E-Ink manufacturer PVI has announced that it definitely won’t be releasing a competing product so all may not be dead in the water for Amazon just yet. 

It’s not time to panic: Digitimes Research reckons that Amazon isn’t struggling, it’s just reducing inventory as it gears up for its next big Kindle release. The updated Kindle will still use E-Ink but will be cheaper to make and cheaper to buy for the man on the street. 

As competition heats up, Barnes & Noble has just announced it is slashing the price of its Nook 3g e-reader from $259 to $199, while also releasing a new WiFi-only model which costs $149, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Total e-reader shipments for the first quarter of 2010 reached 1.43 million units. With more on the way, from manufacturers both Big and Small, it seems the real winner here will be PVI which flogs its E-Ink technology to a range of manufacturing clients, rather than the hardware makers themselves, competing in a new-ish but relatively crowded market.