Are we going to see a color eReader from Samsung soon?

The Kindle uses eInk Pearl with Mr. Bezos saying color is a long ways off.

At the same time we have -

  1. PVI saying eInk Triton is not far off. Hanvon agrees, and is releasing a color screen eReader this year in China.
  2. PocketBook releasing a color eReader, based on Qualcomm Mirasol, in Q3, 2011. 
  3. Samsung buying Liquavista, which has its own color ePaper technology, and offering 50 Euro discounts on both of its existing eReaders.
  4. Fujitsu selling its second generation color screen eReader in Japan.
  5. Adam shipping with a Pixel Qi powered multi-mode screen, which includes a reflective mode for reading in sunlight.

That’s 5 separate companies and 5 separate screen technologies. 2011 will definitely see interesting color eReaders and reading tablets. The things worth wondering about are -

Will Amazon release a color Kindle? What will PocketBook’s Mirasol screen eReader be like? Is Samsung going to soon release a color eReader?

This post will consider the third question.

Signs that a Samsung color eReader is closer than we think

There are a few -

  1. It just bought Liquavista outright. That might mean it’s getting ready to produce color eReaders and wants to get a lock on the technology, and also guarantee there is enough supply.
  2. It’s started discounting its existing eReaders massively. Samsung E60 is now half-price at 50 euros. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about eReaders it’s that a big discount is usually quickly followed by a new eReader release.
  3. It’s stayed in the eReader market and it’s launching worldwide. If nothing else, that suggests it has intent to compete all over the world.

You also have to factor in the fact that Samsung is a monster and it’s bound to keep fighting in eReaders. A few facts courtesy Wikipedia -

  • Samsung Group accounts for 20% of South Korea’s exports.
  • It had $173.4 billion in revenue in 2008. Also, in 2008 it had $252.5 billion in assets.
  • It’s everywhere – world’s second largest shipbuilder, world’s largest electronics company, the 14th largest life insurance company. It even has the fifth most popular theme park in the world.

With over 10 million eReaders sold, and a potential market of tens of millions of eReaders a year, Samsung must feel it’s now worth it to commit fully to the eReader market. Which would explain it buying Liquavista.

Is it possible that Samsung might lose interest in eReaders and color eReaders?

Well, it’s rather unlikely.

It has eReaders out. It is selling them all over the world. It just bought a company that makes color eReader screen technology.

There are probably some reasons why Samsung might quit eReaders -

  1. It might think that reading tablets or tablets are a better market to compete in. Note that the Tablet market has very little competition at the moment (just Apple) while eReaders have the Big 3 of Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader.
  2. Strategically Samsung might feel it’s important to focus on markets other than ereaders first.
  3. It might decide to get into the business of providing eReader technology like eReader screens and memory – as opposed to eReaders themselves.
  4. The eReader market might stall at around 10 to 15 million units a year.
  5. Samsung might decide it doesn’t want to get into the hassles of dealing with Publishers for books. It might feel there’s just too much work involved in providing a complete device+store+channel solution of the type Amazon and B&N provide.

While it’s not inconceivable that Samsung leaves the eReader market, it’s a bit unlikely.

Only the US eReader market has reached anything close to maturity – it’s still penetrable via a color eReader or a very cheap one. The whole world awaits and Samsung has a lot of advantages worldwide. It’s obviously got some big advantages when it comes to Asia and especially South Korea and surrounding countries. There is the possibility that the eReader market keeps growing – Samsung can’t risk missing out on a 40 million eReaders a year market.

When might Samsung release a color eReader?

Q3 or Q4 of 2011 would be the most likely time. All signs indicate that a Color Kindle won’t arrive until Fall 2011 or later. eReaders powered by Qualcomm screens are also not going to be available until then. eInk Triton is only arriving in China in the first half of the year – It might not even arrive in the US by end 2011.

Now that Samsung owns Liquavista it can speed up timelines and ramp up production – It gets a chance to beat Qualcomm and eInk Triton to the US market.

The most likely release date – Fall 2011.

If Samsung decides it needs to be first to market – a June 2011 release date.

Anything before then is rather unlikely.

6 Responses

  1. We are talking about readers here..not game players and phones and what-all. It’s a reader…and you read on it. COLOR, why? To get color pics from The Times? Front pages of the books??? You wanna pay twice as much for color as you do for b&w? I don’t. I also don’t get it! You wanna read blue fonts on yellow background? You wanna have to keep adjusting the color? Wouldn’t that be like coloring the yellow pages? I say, fix some of the shortcomings of the Kindle and the heck with color….but that’s just me!

    • Agreed. What I wish is that there was a true 13″ diagonal reflective e-reader, and also that e-ink Pearl would be improved on. There seem to have been many developments on the color front, but have there been any improvements on making e-inks darks darker and whites whiter? To me, that is more important, but there hasn’t much press on this issue.

  2. Given how glacially slow new ereader screen technology progresses, Î seriously doubt samsung will have anything from their liquavista purchase this year. Mirasol has been showing off their tech for years and liquavista’s showings have been very prototype-ish, so it would be a surprise if liquavista can suddenly catch up.

  3. I seriously doubt it’ll be anything like 2011. Look at how long it has taken Mirasol. Also, just because are seeing potential in Liquavista doesn’t meant they are thinking of using it for e-readers. For one thing, they need to invest in factories and such. That takes time. They could be thinking of other applications for the tech, also, not just ereaders.

    BTW, I also don’t think Flepia is going to make much of an impact. They are selling it for about a thousand US dollars.

  4. “That’s 5 separate companies and 5 separate screen technologies.”

    For those that read 6 to 20 books a year, this is a required technology. (30hz video). For those of us who read over 30 books a year… yawn. But some of this is to combat the ‘IPad hype’ which has some reality behind it.

    Remember, at most 20% of the market participants are ‘intense readers.’ So forget about them a minute.

    This isn’t a competition on books alone, it is a competition for content (ebooks, movies, and music). Right now Amazon has the #1 presence in ebooks while Apple has the #1 presence in music. I’m not sure who is #1 in online moves (netflix?). But no one is going to leave the other markets alone. Either Amazon ‘steps up to the plate’ with better mp3 blayback and the ability for 30hz video or someone else (most likely Apple) will start to encroach on their market.

    It takes dollars to move technology. Look at aerospace between 1938 and 1943. Most of the change was simply due to having the funding to develop and test the ideas. Now that ebooks are a proven market, we’re seeing the money moving to ereader screens that can play 30hz video.

    Great e-ink screens could win the book battle but loose the content war. For some of thosewho buy a color ereader will become the next generation of ‘intense readers.’ If they are already ‘captured’ on another format… good luck for the best ereader getting that customer to switch.

    For example, our two year old is ‘reading’ on an IPad (ABC lessons, number lessons, etc.). While we’re still doing children’s books… She no longer wants them except at bedtime.

    Just a little application of game theory suggests that whomever wins the color w/video ereader market will eventually push everyone else out of the market.

    This doesn’t apply to older readers obviously… But heck, some of those people will never leave paper. This is a competition for the next generation of readers and the casual reader. The last thing Amazon wants is to own an aging market as the younger generation goes to competitors.

    Neil

    • As an addendum:
      Did any of us expect the Nook color to do as well as it did? It isn’t a great device for reading a hundred books a year, but it is selling well. So feel free to disagree with my points, but first you have to explain to yourself why the Nook color is selling so well. Now imagine how well it would have sold if it had better contrast while reading.

      Neil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,768 other followers