E-Ink on phones

The Hitachi E-Ink display

The E Ink Corporation has announces that it’s Vizplex Imaging Film based displays will be available on the Hitachi W61H and on the Casio G’zOne range, both phones will incorporate e-ink technology into the outer display of the handsets. The technology is virtually identical to the display on the Kindle, just a lot smaller.

“We wanted features such as outdoor sunlight readability, 180 degree viewing angle, extremely thin, rugged, flexible display that consumed very little power,” said Satoshi Shirasawa, Marketing Manager for Casio Hitachi Mobile Communications, adding “E Ink’s electrophoretic display technology provided all that and more, something we could not get from other display technologies.”

On the Hitachi W61H the secondary display will cycle through 96 different animations, Japanese designer SeKiYuRiO created the W61H to resemble a perfume bottle. The 2.7″ e-ink display only activates when the phone is in use and will only be available in Japan.

Casio will also incorporate e-ink technology into their G’zOne range, and unlike the Hitachi, will show messages and the time instead of just animations on its secondary “Silhouette display”.

E-ink is proving to be a versatile technology, I guess it was only a matter of time before other applications for e-ink were discovered and utilised, cellphones seem to be the ideal candidate for e-ink displays. I don’t wear a watch any more, I use my phone for telling the time, however in bright sunlight, reading the LCD display is a bit tricky, not so with an e-ink display, I can see these devices becoming very popular.

The Hitachi E-Ink display

The Hitachi E-Ink display

The Hitachi E-Ink display

Source: Techradar

PVI expects 10x growth in EPD market over next three years

Electrophoretic displays or EPD is the superb paper-like technology used in the Kindle and Sony Reader, it is often referred to as e-ink. Prime View International (PVI) is the company behind the production of many e-ink screens, they supply Amazon with e-ink screens for the Kindle. PVI chairman Scott Liu believes that the EPD market is set “to grow 10 times over the next three years”.

PVI president Ys Fu said clients’ shipping schedules for EPDs remain unaffected by the sluggishness hitting the small- to medium-size panel market.

PVI chairman Scott Liu said the EPD market will double in 2009 and staggering growth is expected to continue through the next three years. Foreseeing insufficient capacity to meet the strong demand for EPDs, PVI last year determined that it was necessary to acquire Korea’s BOE Hydis, which PVI has now officially taken over and renamed Hydis Technologies, Liu said.

PVI is still the only major supplier for e-ink displays in the world, and it did have a decline in panel sales, so declining panel sales don’t seem to agree with PVI chairman Scott Liu’s prediction that the EPD market will double in 2009. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that e-book reader sales are going down, we dont know what proportion of PVI’s sales are devoted to e-book readers, so a decline in sales by 33% doesnt tell us anything e-book reader growth. The economy also isnt in the best of shapes, so this might also be contributing to the decline in sales.

Source: DigiTimes

Plastic Logic’s new flexible, low-power e-ink display

plastic logicThin and flexible e-ink displays is one the advances that has been a long time coming. Plastic Logic hopes to bring us this amazing technology by 2009, a cross between the Kindle and actual paper.

Spun off from Cambridge University in 2000, Plastic Logic is now based in Mountain View, California, since 2000 they have been working hard to produce a semi-transparent sheet of tough plastic which can create and erase static images. Plastic Logic haven’t mastered animation yet, but they don’t think it will be too long before they do.

Whilst its headquarters are in Mountain View, California, it also has a manufacturing centre in Dresden, Germany, which is scheduled to open in September 2008. Plastic Logic says its product will be on the market in early 2009.

The company has taken over $200 million in funding to date, and other $50 million funding earlier this year, so all those investors will want to see what products Plastic Logic can come up with.

The obvious application is newspapers and magazines, whether it will be economically feasible for newspapers to ‘print’ on this new generation of e-ink displays is another matter. One possible way of turning a profit for the newspapers could be to sell monthly subscription, with a built in wireless receiver, the flexible display could receive updates for a month before asking the user to renew their subscription. But, I think the most likely–and most profitable–application will be displaying ads on posters and billboards.

You can watch a demonstration of the new e-ink displays provide by Plastic Logic;

Are e-books ready for technical content?

If e-book readers are to ever catch on then they must be able to display all kinds of documents and information, from novels to picture albums to technical documents. This presents a challenge for publishers right now because whist e-book readers are catching on, they don’t posses the technology to display anything other than just words and simple black and white images. A lot of publishers are wanting to put their technical documents on to e-ink devices, however technology in the e-ink industry is limiting how those documents can be displayed.

Once such publisher is Dave Thomas from Pragmatic Programmer which publishes technical programming books, as you can imagine, programming books will be full of diagrams, tables, code lists and images — they are really tricky to reproduce for e-book viewing.

This is what Dave had to say

About once a week, we get a request from a reader to have our books available in a format that can be read on an eBook reader (typically, nowadays, the Amazon Kindle).

In fact, we’ve had a prototype form of that capability for a while now, but we’ve always held back. Frankly, we didn’t think the devices worked well with our kind of content. Basically, the .mobi format used by the Kindle is optimized for books that contain just galleys of text with the occasional heading. Throw in tables, monospaced code listings, sidebars and the like, and things start to get messy. The .epub format (used, for example, by Adobe Digital Editions) is slightly more capable, but it also has issues.

You can see exactly what Dave is talking about because he has uploaded his tests, you can see the results here;

kindle formatting testkindle formatting testkindle formatting testkindle formatting test

Dave goes on to say getting to this stage required a lot of hacks, for instance the code listings have been converted to images so that they render better, however they don’t scale when the user changes the font size — i’m sure many more hacks were used to get to this stage, Dave finises with a good question:

So… what do you think. Is this workable? Should we make these available, even though they’re not very good, or should we wait for a later generation of eBook that’s closer to the capabilities we need? Comments are open… :)

What do you think, should publishers wait or press on knowing this is the best possible outcome given the current technology?

Source: O’Reilly, PragDave

Esquire magazine will publish next months issue with an e-ink cover

esquire cover 2008 colbertEsquire Magazine celebrates its 75th birthday this year. To celebrate this milestone Esquire has partnered up with a Cambridge, Massachusetts based technology company, E Ink Corporation (the same company which makes the Kindles e-ink display), to become the first magazine to be printed-or should I say manufactured-with an e-ink cover.

The special 75th anniversary issue will focus on exploring the ideas, people and issues that will be the foundation of the 21st century.

“This cover is both a breakthrough for magazines and an expression of the theme of our anniversary issue,” said David Granger, editor-in-chief of Esquire Magazine. Whilst the cover uses “rudimentary e-ink technology” primarily because the cost associated with having a high resolution e-ink display is still very high, Mr. Granger hopes this is only the beginning of an explosion in the use of e-ink technology.

Mr. Granger, also has high hopes for the covers place in history saying “I hope it will be in the Smithsonian […] Magazines have basically looked the same for 150 years,” adding “I have been frustrated with the lack of forward movement in the magazine industry.” – you can include the publishing and the newspaper industry’s to that also.

Whilst some might see this as a marketing gimmick, Esquire is hopeful that the technology behind the device will last, Mr. Granger thinks “The possibilities of print have just begun. In two years, I hope this looks like cellphones did in 1982, or car phones.”

Esquires publishers have had to invest a six figure amount in order to get the project off the ground, so a big-time sponsor was needed in order to turn a profit, Ford was brought in to help with some of the costs in exchange for a 2-page e-ink advertisement.

The Esquire team has been planning to use an e-ink cover for a long time, back in 2000, Mr. Granger visited E Ink Corporation in Cambridge for a technology demonstration, but conceded that it was too premature for magazines. In 2006 the technology had improved sufficiently that only limitation to creating an e-ink magazine was having a battery small enough to power it-and the associated costs-, so for the past 16 months Esquire has been working with a Chinese manufacture to create a battery which will fit inside a magazine, the battery is expected to last 90 days.

It would be interesting to see what magazine stands would look like in a decades time if the e-ink cover catches on. Magazine stands are already a visual assault on the eyes, every magazine is competing for you attention with bright colours and scantily clad women, one can only imagine the stands if they were filled with animated e-ink covers!

Now I suspect that the e-ink display will be a segmented type as opposed to a high resolution graphic type available on the Kindle, given the cost of manufacturing. The Esquire cover will probably have a few frames of animation or some flashing text – nothing fancy, but still quite cool. Esquire has an exclusive deal with E Ink Corporation on the use of e-ink technology in print through 2009, however only a 100,000 e-ink covers will be produced, they will only be available on Magazine stands and the 620,000 Esquire mail subscribers will get a printed copy of the issue.

Source: New York Times