Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pixel Qi combines e-ink challenger and color for sometime next year

The Pixel Qi will be quite a combo and I hope Bezos is looking at it for the next generation Kindle, beyond the Kindle DX.  A lot of work is needed first.

It combines an e-ink type of screen mode with a color screen mode.  As for the time-frame we can expect this to beocme a reality for actual devices on the market, Josh Quittner writes:
' The displays still have a way to go, of course.  A third party would need to build a proper motherboard, optimized for the display and an e-reader.  (Simply slapping a PQ display on the Acer gives it an extra hour or so of battery life; an optimized e-reader essentially goes to sleep between the turn of each page, saving far more power, among other things.)  But Mary Lou said that a manufacturer could buy PQ's technology today and have an e-reader that could render high-def text, on a full color page, and video, by the first quarter of next year.  The screens are cheap to produce, too—well under $200, she said. Such a device ought to enjoy 40 hours or so of use as an e-reader, between charges.  Video would drain the battery faster, obviously. '
I can't imagine that if this is workable that Bezos won't make an effort to use it for future Kindles.

UPDATE - 6/1/09 (Original posting: 5/31/09 - 9:03 PM)   In an earlier entry on this blog about the cost of the components for the Kindle, iSuppli's supervising analyst, Andrew Rasseiler, estimates the cost of the e-ink display at $60 "or about 42% of the cost of materials."  So, the Pixel Qi screen costing "well under $200" indicates a fairly costly device, when the wireless is included as it is now.

  Also, Taiwan’s Prime View International is buying E-Ink in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for $215 million.  They are the company that currently integrates the Kindle's E-Ink screen into the final module and will combine the two companies now into a single public company.  E-Ink's founder and CEO, Russell J. Wilcox, says they can now "streamline the supply chain and speed up new product." It'd be nice to lower the costs while they're at it. :-)

UPDATE - 6/3/09 - CNet offers more info on what PVI does and what its relationship has been with epaper manufacturer E Ink of Cambridge, Mass.  They worked together on Sony readers as well.  As a wholly-owned subsidiary of PVI, once the deal is approved, E Ink will likely add another 20 workers to its 120-member staff.

UPDATE - 6/3/09 - (Original posting: 5/31/09 - 9:03 PM)   A closer look at Pixel Qi's images.
  Kindle Zen's Steve Bains has an interesting article on Pixel Qi's images and the lighting and angles involved, and there's a video demo of the prototype screen in action on the streets in sunlight.  Bains points out that CNet's Peter Glaskowsky has cautioned that some of the marketing in the past by Mary Lou Jepson, Pixel Qi's founder, who was CTO for the One Laptop Per Child project, has included claims that Glaskowsky doesn't find quite supportable and which he terms "hyperbole." I'm not quite sure why Glaskowsky finds PQ's focus too narrow when I'd think that would be a criticism of companies like E Ink also - and Pixel Qi's technology looks quite promising.

Pay a visit to Kindle Zen to see the full report by Bains and the many other interesting stories on their site, somewhat off the beaten path.

UPDATE - 6/8/09 - New video of Kindle 1 next to Pixel Qi in all kinds of light.  I was surprised at how green the Pixel Qi screen looks, next to the Kindle. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. Actually, the Pixel Qi display uses LCD technology. While it looks as good (or better) than E-ink, it does not use E-ink technology.

    Sure hope Bezos is paying attention. This looks like it pretty much could drastically alter the ebook reader landscape by this time year.


  2. It's a screen that can be switched between reflective mode and emissive mode. They've been calling it an e-ink and e-paper mode in several stories, though not meaning it's what E-Ink company uses as a method. It's a competing method.

    I agree. i was also surprised it's "well under $200" for the screen, but the e-Ink screen by the Massachusetts people (with Taiwan partners) is $60. So, it's at least an extra $100 but people want color and if you can get video on the screen in emissive mode, why not pay aother $100?

    Bezos's statement the other day about color Kindles did not indicate that he did know about this though, which is strange. I would think they'd have people studying competitor doings.

    And now PVI has bought E-Ink, which means they could lower costs. Sure. I wonder if Amazon is tied to EInk's technology for a promised time period. But from what you read, effective use of that screen in a reading device with all the contracts that must be done, would take time. First part of 2010 seems right.

    And I think most peope would value color and video over having wireless 24/7. Me? Wireless is more important. But I'd love both :-)

  3. Elmo, I've changed wording to e-ink type of screen and added the word 'mode' to screen for both types of screens. This will act as a log of that.
    The 'reflective' (like e-ink) and the 'emissive' (LCD) modes can be read about in the linked story.

    Thanks for the alert.

  4. Although many media outlets have attempted to make the term "e-ink" generic, it really refers to a very specific technology that is manufactured by the company of the same name. The Pixel Qi display may be considered "e-ink-like" perhaps, but I would argue that we really need to be careful to differentiate the technologies. Pixel Qi even provides this disclaimer (in red) on their web site:

    We have seen several instances in which the press (and, more often, bloggers) imagine some connection between what we’re doing and E Ink Corporation. We repeat that our products don’t use electrophoretic technology and that we have no corporate relationship to the company known as E Ink Corporation.


  5. Yes, they've used the word the way we do Kleenex or Xerox or ... these days Kindle (for e-book readers).

    I agree with you. It's a competing type of reflective process and combined with the emissive LCD type. It's great not to have the flaws of pure LCD technology for what will surely be the next e-reader.

    Actually, I did read many articles on this and used the least sloppy one I found but I should have changed my title accordingly. It was not bloggers but newspaper or -corporate blogs- dealing in 'news' who did it first and these newspapers now have blogs galore, like the Nerdworld blog from TIME and the many from WashPost and NYT, all of which actually tend to report less accurately about the gadgets, I've found, and it keeps some of us busy correcting statements in comments areas.

    Bloggers usually do still pick up from online newspapers. I remember that one I read said you switched the light off and then you had the e-ink screen :-)

    Thanks for these notes. Very helpful.

  6. Adding a log of how this was reported:

    5/29 -
    -- "e-ink mode" described twice

    6/1 -
    -- "e-ink mode" mentioned twice News
    6/1 -
    -- "eink" - described as, 6 times, including the headline

    6/2 -
    -- "epaper" is the term used instead.

    3QI is the actual name for the the screen that's a combination of 2 modes of color (emissive mode) and 1 b&w mode (reflective mode).

    Probably the best description so far, for the b&w screen similar to e-ink but with no difference seen between it and the Kindle when comparing the two, is 'epaper.'

  7. VBG. My thoughts exactly on your reference to Kleenex and Xerox. Your change to the headline was perfect. So much great info here. Do you ever sleep?? ;>

    I found an interesting analysis of the Pixel Qi vs e-ink displays here:


  8. In fact, I saw it about an hour ago and have been reading the links too. Kindlezen is the Twitter's KindleToday and they're on top of everything, and that is an extremely thorough article.
    I will reference it in a brief update but likely not until tomorrow. Have been watching the live Cliburn with friends day and night. Very sharp people on the kindlezen page.


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