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

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launch our color e-paper product by the end of this year or the beginning of 2011. The company has just announced at the CeBIT conference that Hanvon, a Chinese company that just got listed in the last week and received great support from the capital markets, will design a color e-book reader using E Ink’s technology. They’ve raised a lot of money and have received strong financial backing to do this and to deliver their new product, which will be in early 2011. That will be the first phase for our color product.

We also have quite a few advanced color projects now in the pipeline. As I’ve been saying, we are recruiting a lot of great scientists in the Boston area to continue to explore what would be the best technology solutions for us to do color, and we already have quite a lot of ideas about this. Initially, the display quality will not be as good as LCD, but it will provide a good reading experience vis a vis LCD, simply because it’s reflective and bistable. If you want to do gaming, movies, video, you will still go to a LCD. But we believe that if you want to do digital reading, the reflective color E Ink screen will give you a better solution than LCD. For the long term, what we really want to do is, hopefully in a couple of years, launch an advanced color product in which the performance will be a lot better than in our first phase of color products, and hopefully providing very good color. We are working very hard on that.

X: What can you tell me about your technical ideas for creating better color displays? Is adding color simply a matter of tweaking the company’s existing microcapsule technology, or do you have to go back to the drawing board and approach it in an entirely new way?

SP: Even if we slightly describe it, we will probably reveal stuff that we are not ready to talk about. There is more than one approach, and exactly which one we will choose in the future, we don’t know.

With the product that we are planning to launch by the end of this year, when you put it side by side with an ordinary newspaper, the color will be better than the color in most newspapers. So that market will be satisfied. For textbook markets, the color will also meet their expectations. Where we will likely fall short is in digital magazines, where there are glossy pictures.

The approaches we are taking include improving the monochrome display to have greater contrast, so that when you overlay the color layer, it will look at least as good as the current black and white screens, if not better. In other words, we need to preserve all the goodness of the monochrome layer, and put color over it without sacrificing anything.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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