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- From the Tech Desk
E-Ink To Develop E-Book Reader
Device to hit market in 2003, Reports E-Book Zone at SeyboldReports.comE-Ink to develop e-book reader Device to hit market in 2003, Reports E-Book Zone at SeyboldReports.com SeyboldReports.com reports that electronic paper pioneer E Ink unveiled a prototype dedicated reading device at the NIST eBook 2001 Conference in Washington D.C. The device, which weighs only 9 ounces and will feature E Ink's proprietary display technology, should hit consumer markets in 2003, according to Russ Wilcox, E Ink's vice president and general manager. The device will cost approximately $300, said Wilcox, will be only one centimeter thick will feature a seven-inch diagonal screen, will run on two AA batteries and will include a memory card slot. The device will sync with a user's desktop PC either via USB or parallel port. Although marketable device is still several years away, nearly all the elements of the technology were demonstrated yesterday.
Obviously, the most critical and exciting feature of the device will be its display, which will feature E Ink's proprietary technology based on microcapsules printed onto a sheet of plastic film. The microcapsules contain positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles. When a negative electric field is applied to the capsule, the white particles move to the top and make that "pixel" appear white. Likewise a positive field would cause the black particles to move to the top. There are several advantages to using the technology for device displays. First, by using thousands of particles in each capsule, the screen's resolution is high. Wilcox noted that the e-book device will most likely have a resolution of 150 microcapsules-per-inch. Second, the E Ink display uses very little power, making it possible to run the fairly large e-book device we saw yesterday on two AA batteries. Developing long-lasting batteries is a headache for many device manufacturers (not to mention the added weight and cost they place on the device), so this feature by itself will be an extremely valuable asset for E Ink. Third, the displays can be made of thin plastic rather than glass, making them much more thin, light and durable than other LCD-based devices.
When it ships, the device will be able to display white, black and four shades of gray, according to Wilcox. E Ink's grayscale display is generated by altering the charge in the microcapsule so that white or black particles do not rise completely to the top, but are suspended at various levels just beneath the plastic film. Depending on how far the particles are from the plastic film, different shades of gray can be generated. Wilcox also offered attendees a glimpse at a prototype eight-color E Ink display, although he made clear that it was still several years from market. The prototype was developed in conjunction with Japanese firm and E Ink partner Toppan Printing.
Although Wilcox made no mention of which manufacturers will work with E Ink to bring the e-book device to market, that company will most likely be Philips, which made a significant investment in E Ink last spring. Philips recently completed intensive market studies on the form factor, screen size and types of displays consumers would like to see in a dedicated reading devices, and the electronics giant has made no secret of its intentions to market E Ink's technology.
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