E Ink, Marvell Create a Chip for Cheaper E-Book Devices
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designs—“we are not a semiconductor company, so many of these solutions that we developed years ago use older technology,” Peruvemba notes—but they are physically separated from the devices’ main microprocessors, meaning some time is lost in communication between the components.
“The microprocessor previously had to talk to the controller to update the display,” Peruvemba says. “Now that the controller is inside the [Armada] microprocessor, you can do some parallel processing, which was previously not possible. So there is a belief that we will have better efficiencies. How much that will translate into faster page turns and other performance improvements is something we will calculate in the next few months as the chip is put into actual e-book devices and we get much better data.”
To save energy, the Armada chip also has a special hibernation mode that consumes no battery power when an e-book device is inactive or turned off. Together, these improvements “are expected to accelerate the rapid release of new forms of e-readers at a variety of price points,” Marvell and E Ink said in their announcement.
Executives at enTourage, Plastic Logic, and Spring Design all praised the Armada chip. Frank Canova, a vice president of product engineering at Plastic Logic, called it a “key enabler” for the company’s first product, which is expected to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Albert Teg, founder and chief technology officer at Spring Design, said his company chose the Armada chip because it needed a processor powerful enough to run the Android mobile operating system while also supporting the Alex Reader’s dual screens—one based on E Ink’s technology, the other a color LCD screen for multimedia playback and Web browsing.
In passing, the E Ink-Marvell announcement also mentioned that the planned merger between E Ink and Taiwan’s Prime View International is expected to be completed in December. E Ink said in September that a sweetened version of Prime View’s merger agreement—one that gives E Ink shareholders more stock in the combined company, depending on the company’s stock price performance—had gained enough shareholder support for the merger to go forward.
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