What’s Black and White and Read all Over?
No, I don’t mean a newspaper. I’m actually referring to a new device that is showing signs of becoming the next ubiquitous consumer gadget – the eReader.
Just over a month ago, Applied Ventures – Applied Materials’ venture capital arm – announced a strategic investment in Liquavista BV. Liquavista, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands, is commercializing a novel reflective front plane technology called electrowetting for use in next generation epaper applications.
There have been a number of other announcements recently of collaborations between various large consumer electronic manufacturers, start-up eReader companies, retailers and mobile phone network operators.
At the end of August, Barnes and Noble also announced a partnership with Dutch eReader company IREX technologies. According to iRex’s web site, “When IREX Technologies unveils its consumer eReader later this year, the device will include the Barnes & Noble eBookstore from Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, giving users access to more than 750,000 titles, including new releases and bestsellers at $9.99.”
Just recently, Barnes and Noble announced another partnership with Plastic Logic. Barnes & Noble will resell Plastic Logic's device, rounding out the bookseller's upcoming products to compete with rival Amazon’s (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle line. It appears AT&T will also be benefiting from the collaboration. According to a July press release, AT&T will be providing the mobile broadband connection for Plastic Logic’s device.
In the meantime, a number of consumer electronic companies have released newer, cheaper eReaders including: the CoolEr device which sells for $249 on their web site and new versions of the Sony Ebook which includes access to over a million public domain books through a partnership with Google.
Though all of these eReader devices offer benefits such as reflectivity, high contrast and the ability for the consumer to purchase, carry, and enjoy in a lightweight, low power device several backpacks full of novels, magazines, and newspapers, they lack the basic functionality that is included in devices such as the iPod or HTC touch.
One of these fundamental pieces of functionality is the ability to display rapidly changing images such as required to show a simple video clip - a limitation of the electropheretic materials used as the front plane for almost all the existing eReaders on the market today.
In fact, Marvell recently announced a two display device so that with their device, consumers do not have to give up the ability to see video rate content.
The electrowetting technology, overcomes this limitation because the electrowetting effect can switch at higher rates than electropheretic while maintaining the positive characteristics associated with reflective displays such as not requiring power consumptive backlights.
At the Flat Panel Display show in Yokahama, Liquavista demonstrated a 6”reflective video capable (as well as touch screen operable) eReader display and a 3” reflective color video display with electrowetting technology. Liquavista has provided a video of their latest demonstrators.
As Liquavista's customers scale up their manufacturing capabilities for making these displays, we believe they will benefit from turning to Applied Materials, as we have decades of experience providing customers with world class manufacturing solutions.
Liquavista aims to bring their technology to the mass market in time for the 2011 holiday season. Apart from video, Liquavista is planning other options such as color and touch screen capability for next generations. Put this on your wish list now.
With the Liquavista technology, eReaders will no longer be black and white and read all over like their newspaper cousins but rather colorful, interactive, and enjoyed wherever.
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