The eInk display technology (the same one that is used on Kindle screens) has a new rival. Far more than LG’s micro foil technology that is used by Hearst, Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology is threatening to overtake eInk by the end of this year. Mirasol, as we reported earlier, is a new display technology that is being developed by a team of researchers under the banner of Qualcomm — their primary sponsor. The main advantage of this technology is that it has the capability of producing RGB pixels. That means full color displays. And it doesn’t stop there either.
Mirasol can also display video and decent frame rates and according to those who saw the demo at CES 2010 — it is a very promising new technology. Because even though the screen is doing full color video, the developers claim that it has a 6x battery advantage over eInk under average eInk usage. The overlaying of a capacitive touchscreen allows the screen to become touch enabled but reduces the display’s sharpness slightly. Still, it is supposed to be capable enough to take over the eInk displays. To give you an estimate – if your eInk display device lasts one full day on a single charge, the same device will last for 6 days on the same single charge and battery if it uses a Mirasol display. Of course, this is all theoretically speaking but the real world value is still likely to be quite high.
Mirasol can easily be read under direct sunlight like the eInk screens and it can also be evenly backlit for dark situations – something that the eInk screens are not equipped for. Mirasol is likely to hit by the end of 2010 and the first screens will be around 5.7 in size — enough for medium sized eBook readers and may be even tablet devices. Watch the video for a look at what it looks like.
The screen is real but the housing is non-functional right now
Qualcomm is funding the development of a new type of display technology called Mirasol and it is being touted as the future of eBook readers. That means it will replace the e-Ink technology that our beloved Kindle uses. So how does it work and why is it (reportedly) so much better?
Mirasol has been developed by mimicking a feature that makes the butterfly’s wings shimmer. It uses no back lighting, just like e-Ink and uses incidental light to reflect it back through a special layer. This layer is made up of multiple microscopic membranes that can be change through electric current. Once they change, they remain static in that state until another electric charge causes them to change again. This means they do not use electricity during a period of no change.
Their main advantage is that these membranes can produce the three main colors used in modern color displays – Red, Green And Blue (RGB) – and hence can produce a vibrant colored image. They also produce very impressive blacks (at least in theory) because in their closed state they reflect no light at all and have no other source of light.
Due to their design, they are able to run higher frame rates, thus making smooth videos a possibility on the display. Currently, pushing the frame rate up on the e-Ink would cause it to consume more battery.
That is because e-Ink uses tiny microcapsules that have three states – Black, white amd mixed. Changing them through negative and positive charges creates the same effect as LCD pixels. But since they contain physical particles, they do not need any backlighting. But making them support RGB would require highly specialized particles and higher frame rates would require much more current.
How this will affect eBook readers is still debatable but if it does become viable, then Amazon might consider switching. We just have to wait a bit more to see how it pans out. Qualcomm intends to have it in the market by the end of 2010.
Amazon will soon have a UK launch date finalized for the Kindle, according to British mobile phone trade publication, Mobile Today. Although its not currently clear when this date will be, the launch should occur in time for the holiday season.
Of course, just because Kindle has been slow to leave the US doesn’t mean that Amazon’s competitors haven’t already cracked the European market. Part of Amazon’s strategy will now have to be winning away users who already have experience with other eReaders.
What may be the Kindle’s largest selling point is also the reason for the delay: Whispernet. The reason Kindle isn’t yet sold in the UK is because problems arose in finding a wireless carrier (Orange and Vodafone, 2 major cellular companies in Great Britain, are working on their own wireless-enabled eReaders with Vodaphone planning to release as soon as this fall). Qualcomm has taken over negotiations for Amazon, and has apparently found a solution to the wireless problem.
One question on my mind is how the UK Kindle’s will work in the US and vice versa. Most likely it will not be possible to use wireless connectivity outside your own country. In order to make this a reality Amazon will need ot install universal wireless chipset that would support both CDMA (Sprint) and GSM (european operators). This will incurr extra cost while not making a great difference for 99% of the users. I may be wrong though. We’ll see…