E Ink acquisition sets stage for color epaper by 2010


Prime View said on Monday it would pay about $215 million for E Ink, whose flexible digital displays are used in Amazon's Kindle and the Sony Reader. ... E Ink Vice President Sriram Peruvemba said the deal would provide the financing and manpower needed to fuel development of color displays, slated for mass production at the end of 2010.

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  1. A color E-ink display will never be feasible. The reason B&W e-ink displays work so well in ambient light is that the “white” parts of the image have no filters blocking the reflected light. A B&W LCD display, by comparison, automatically loses 50% of the reflected light because of the polarizing filter, but e-ink doesn’t.

    The problem with color is that you automatically lose an additional 2/3 of your reflective light in the color mask because each subpixel is only letting 1 of 3 possible colors through. Current e-ink displays are already “newsprint” color in the white areas — making them color would make the white areas even darker yet. To put it bluntly, reflective color screens don’t work well unless you’re outdoors.

    This was shown perfectly by the Palm m505, which was a color version of the Palm V. The reflective front-lit color screen produced an image that was best described as “watercolors on concrete”, due to 2/3 of the light being gobbled up by the color mask (a total of 83.3% was actually being blocked when you include the polarizing filter). Palm had to quickly replace it with the m515 that had a super bright (and power-hungry) front-light to compensate for the screen technology. Their replacement for the m500 series, the Tungsten and Zire series, all used traditional backlit non-reflective LCD screens.

  2. That’s a pretty lame deal. They raised $150M from investors and then sold out for $219M? Not much of a gain, actually. I think the employees got screwed on this one.

  3. Zan- I’m not so sure that it will never be feasible. The basic mechanism for color e-paper is not through applying a filter: as you point out, that method would not work very well because of the amount of light lost. Instead, coloring the oil the particles are suspended in produces white when the particles are at the front of the screen, and the color of the oil when they are at the back.

    It might not be ready for prime time yet, but seriously– never?

  4. …they already have a working version of colour e-ink, and have since 2005. SO, you’re wrong, Zan. Also, in the world of technology, NEVER say never. Ever. Because you’ll eventually be proven wrong.

  5. Color e-ink is essential for e-comics to take off. Reading comics on an iPhone is not that good, it’s better to have a larger screen. I’ve been waiting for a good portable e-comic reader for a long time.

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