New E Ink Leader Sees Colorful Future for Company Under Taiwan’s Prime View International

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the small segmented displays, for things like wristwatches and smartphones.

X: T.H. mentioned that your engineers have ideas about how to produce color versions of electronic-ink films. Where does that technology stand? Is it becoming more urgent for the company to come up with a workable color version of its technology given the impending debut of Apple’s iPad, which has a color LCD screen and will have a built-in e-book app?

THP: We have a lot to say about this. Sri and I have both been in the LCD industry for a long time. The iPad is not the first LCD-based e-book reader. More than 10 years ago, there were already a few e-book reading devices using LCD screens. But those products have never been quite successful in the market. There is more than one reason—for example, the infrastructure of digital publishing was not well established, and maybe the form factor was not as cool. But we believe one of the key reasons was that LCD screens do not provide a very good digital reading experience.

LCD can do full color and video rate animation, and the display looks very nice, but there are a lot of problems. One is that you just don’t feel comfortable when you’re reading on an LCD screen. Very often when I have a long e-mail to read I just print it on paper, because I want to comprehend it and I just feel more comfortable doing that. We believe that is the key reason the LCD-based e-book readers were not popular.

We believe the iPad is very well positioned to be a good product, but we think it’s better for movies and video, not necessarily for digital reading. Having said that, we believe the existence of the iPad product is good for us. Just think about it—in the next month before the launch of the iPad, how many articles are there going to be talking about digital publishing and e-books? That is all really good for us, because it’s helping to create a very strong consumer awareness of digital reading, and it’s also good for creating awareness among publishers.

We already have companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Sony who are endorsing digital publishing, and now we have another very good company called Apple. So generally this is very good for us. Yes, we do see some potential competition, but we believe the positives resulting from the iPad are a lot more beneficial. So we actually welcome the iPad—we think it’s going to be a joint force with us in creating a stronger digital publishing industry.

X: Nonetheless, you’re working on color versions of electronic ink to compete with the LCD-based devices, right?

THP: Let me continue to talk about this issue. First off, our color is different from LCD color. It’s reflective and bistable, meaning that even if you switch off the power, the image will still be there. You feel more comfortable reading a reflective display versus reading a backlit, powered display, which produces eye strain.

Having said that, our color quality will not be as good as LCD, initially. But we have already received very encouraging signs from a few customers that they want to … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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