The next generation of the Kindle eReader is going to have at least an optional lit display. We know that for a fact at this point. Even if previous reports of supply chain requests, patent purchasing, and “leaked” previews of the hardware weren’t enough, the no bid contract that Amazon signed with the US State Department clearly indicated that the devices they delivered would have front-lit E Ink displays. Unfortunately it might be a bit longer than we expected before we see these new lit Kindles.
According to information from DigiTimes (to which all the standard cautionary disclaimers regarding their notorious unreliability apply), there have been some problems coming up in the production of their new lighting. While reports of test units have indicated that the technology works, apparently something is going wrong now that they have stepped up to mass production.
This may have the effect of delaying shipments of the new Kindle eReader until late in the third quarter of 2012. Considering the fact that most people expected to see this new product announced as early as the end of July, the delays mark a major issue for Amazon’s continued investment in eReaders.
At the moment, the Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is the most functional eReader on the market. Barnes & Noble, Amazon’s primary competition for eBook customers in the US, came out with their own lighting solution months before Amazon was even rumored to be ready with their own. This has not stopped the Kindle from remaining the most popular eReader on the market today but even with superior customer loyalty, satisfaction, and brand recognition you can’t think they will be happy about losing any customers over the hardware side of their business.
Even with these delays, there is no reason to expect the front-lit Kindle to be pushed back beyond the holidays or abandoned. Amazon is already committed to releasing such a device and it is about the only direction they could hope to improve their hardware at this point until color E Ink screens become less problematic.
The biggest problems with this delay will likely be experienced by users already invested in the Kindle platform. Many are hoping that the update to the Kindle’s hardware will address some of the more common complaints in addition to offering the convenience of lighting. Touchscreen Kindles from the latest generation have not included physical controls for turning pages, unlike the Nook Simple Touch, which is one of many customer demands that will likely come up here.
The Kindle Keyboard is still available and offers up all of the reading enjoyment that it ever did while not requiring the user to sacrifice screen quality, but it is also not receiving significant upgrades to its software features anymore and as such can’t quite compete with newer models for many users. Presumably the next installment will combine the advantages of both possible approaches now that Amazon has had a chance to see what worked and what didn’t when they moved the Kindle over to a touchscreen.