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Old 12-30-2009, 09:05 AM   #1
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PVI gets final approval of E-Ink Corp purchase

Chinese e-reader site MobRead is reporting that PVI now has final approval from the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission to buy Massachusetts based E-ink Corp.

Up until it announced the purchase of Eink back in June, PVI had licensed Eink's technology and was (still is) the primary manufacturer of epaper screens for ebook readers like the Kindle, Sony Reader, Hanlin V3, Cybook, etc.
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Old 12-30-2009, 10:25 AM   #2
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PVI has done a great job dominating the market so far. But it's going to be quite a challenge going forward with all the competing technologies that are vying to compete.

To expand their market and be profitable going forward, there seem to be a lot of investment dollars required (purchasing E-ink for the licensing, buying additional production capacity, etc). All without knowing how long they will be the dominant supplier of e-reader screen technology. Or even knowing for sure that dedicated e-book readers will be a long lasting product category.

But, hey - you've gotta take some chances to get the glory, and they have a much better feel for how well they can compete going forward that we do. It's not like they don't have color and other improvements in the pipeline, so e-ink may be here to stay for a long time.

Personally, I am hoping that they get a big reward for kickstarting the e-reader market with Sony and Amazon. (Not that there aren't many other players, and others before them providing LCD screen e-readers, but those folks really seem to be the key players who created the turning point in e-reader popularity.)

But I also hope that it's not too easy - I'd really like to see many competing technologies bring new innovation and benefits as well. After all, the bottom line is that we want the best e-reading experience possible, as soon as possible!
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Old 01-01-2010, 06:04 AM   #3
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Does any other company make "e-Ink" displays that are used commercially?

I love my Reader and e-Ink is great. But I'm a little disappointed by the lack of updates. There was version 1 (PRS-500) and then Version 2 (Kindle 2, PRS-xxx, Nook, etc.) and that's it. I'm happy to be corrected, but they don't seem to have done much to update the technology as quickly as I expected.

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Old 01-01-2010, 07:02 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by EatingPie View Post
Does any other company make "e-Ink" displays that are used commercially?

I love my Reader and e-Ink is great. But I'm a little disappointed by the lack of updates. There was version 1 (PRS-500) and then Version 2 (Kindle 2, PRS-xxx, Nook, etc.) and that's it. I'm happy to be corrected, but they don't seem to have done much to update the technology as quickly as I expected.

-Pie
There has been one major revision in the fundamental e-ink/PVI EPD (electrophoretic display) technology, which as you noted was the upgrade from the early PRS-500 and similar displays to newer "Vizplex" displays that we have today.

Their chief competitor for EPDs, Sipix, has only been actively used in one marketed ebook reader device. It seems that Sipix is not much of an upgrade, if at all, from PVI and E-Ink. There are other manufacturers who are trying to bring to market other EPD tech, but the advancements in the areas where E-Ink/PVI are weak is minimal overall, excepting the speed increases in color EPD by Bridgestone (IIRC), which allow color refresh much faster than the previous Fujitsu FLEPia, but still not particularly fast. E-Ink/PVI will probably continue to lead the EPD production/development as it pertains to the electronics market, though others may jump ahead with concepts that never see production. Other than claiming they were working on color screens, I'm not sure what E-Ink/PVI are developing.

Generally speaking, there are 3 primary technologies that may be very close to production that could usurp the EPD stranglehold on the current ebook reader market. One is IMOD (interferometric modulation) being produced as Mirasol by Qualcomm. That allows color and fast refreshes without sacrificing battery life. They have production capability mostly ready and expect to have devices out in the second half of 2010, but nobody ever knows how predictions like that go.

The second tech is called electrowetting, which is being spearheaded mostly by Liquavista, which has a good amount of public financial backing and a partnership with Plastic Logic (which has made a plastic-based EPD display that will be brought to market as the Que, which will be distributed largely by Barnes and Noble early this year). Liquavista's electrowetting has a few stages, and currently I think their most mature is called LiquavistaBright, which is monochrome like E-Ink/PVI, but has faster refresh and higher contrast. There are other versions of electrowetting which permit color, but I believe those are still a little ways off.

The third tech is LCD. Monochrome reflective LCDs still have a lot of potential, though their traditional drawback is the need to constantly refresh and thus draw power continuously, which is not a problem with the previously mentioned technologies. Another side of LCD that is being pushed is more advanced transflective displays, which allow mode-switching between a backlit (emissive) display and a non-backlit (reflective) one. These have been around for many years but have never been especially advanced or convincing to the market as a whole. Pixel Qi has been developing a new variety of transflective display that will be more optimized for daylight reading, and LG seems like it will be working on improving their transflective screens. These are geared more towards computer users than dedicated ebook readers as they do draw power constantly, albeit very low amounts when in a reflective mode. They allow video playback in both modes, and full color and night reading when in emissive mode.

There are lots of other things like OLEDs and bistable LCD that are being worked on, but I don't see those as being a dominant short-term tech (I could well be wrong though).

If E-Ink and PVI maintain their stranglehold on the ebook reader market, most of the obvious improvements in the short term will probably not come from the displays themselves, but rather from the controller, processors, and software. The Marvell Armada was recently developed to lower costs and improve general performance in ebook reader-style devices, and the latest demonstrated ebook readers can be much much faster to load and even turn pages than classic Vizplex like the PRS-505 and earlier E-Ink displays. That trend may continue until Vizplex becomes the major bottleneck, but it's hard to say.

I hope EPDs improve on contrast/resolution/speed fronts, but I don't know how they're going to do all of that quickly, and I don't think they've made any public indications that they're developing in that direction (I've only seen statements of ramped-up production and statements about color in the future).

Hope that's helpful

Last edited by LDBoblo; 01-01-2010 at 03:39 PM.
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:14 PM   #5
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...
Hope that's helpful
That was beyond awesome! Thanks!

-Pie
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Old 01-01-2010, 02:54 PM   #6
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Plastic Logic, which is coming to market with a plastic-based EPD display in the Barnes and Noble Que early this year.
That's an excellent recap on the state of the industry. I hope you don't mind this minor correction.

I see the Que mentioned as B&Ns device often when it is Plastic Logic's device. They have partnered with B&N for the e-store and one of the retailers will be B&N but its not exclusive to B&N nor branded as a B&N device like the nook is.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:31 PM   #7
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That's an excellent recap on the state of the industry. I hope you don't mind this minor correction.

I see the Que mentioned as B&Ns device often when it is Plastic Logic's device. They have partnered with B&N for the e-store and one of the retailers will be B&N but its not exclusive to B&N nor branded as a B&N device like the nook is.
Thanks! I didn't mean to be confusing about their relationship, just wanted to point out where we'd see the device (either first or most prominently). Good point, I'll edit it into my post.
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Old 01-01-2010, 05:51 PM   #8
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The IMOD technology (Mirasol) looks pretty exciting I must admit, but we probably won't see devices in the market place until about 2011 for that one.

I had never heard of electrowetting before, but again as monochrome it might just be an improvement on e-ink and not a total revolution that Mirasol may be (because Mirasol could render colour magazines pretty well possibly).

Good info LDBoblo, Thanks!
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