Would you replace your laptop/netbook screen with Pixel Qi?

Update: There’s a comment accusing me of being angry and negative about Pixel Qi and it’s right. Pixel Qi have been teasing us since February 2009 with this vision of a magical new screen that changes everything. Here’s my February 2009 post about Pixel Qi. You’ll be surprised by the lack of anger and negativity – you might even notice enthusiasm.

It’s difficult to be positive when after 1 year of a dance of Vera of the Seven Veils Pixel Qi only have a DIY kit to offer and even that doesn’t have a release date.

Mary Lou Jepsen has an update at the Pixel Qi Blog talking about Do It Yourself Pixel Qi Kits that will be available towards the end of Q2, 2010.

There’s also some story about 5 year old girls in Nigeria replacing laptop screens which makes me feel terrible about my inability to figure out my old Asus laptop’s screen problems ūüėČ .

The point of the story is that changing a laptop screen is not difficult –

It’s only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbulb:

it’s basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in. That’s it. It’s a 5 minute operation.

It seems that Pixel Qi want people to get over their fear of meddling with their laptop’s innards¬†and¬†try out the new Pixel Qi screens.¬†

Would you try out Pixel Qi’s DIY kit?

There are some obvious downsides – You might mess up your laptop, you definitely void the warranty, and we don’t know what the price of the Pixel Qi kit is.

However, there’s a¬†big upside –¬†You get a really cool multiple mode screen that turns your laptop/netbook into an eReader-Netbook hybrid.

Would you risk your warranty and your netbook/laptop to try out a Pixel Qi screen?

Personally, taking a $300 Asus netbook and modding it seems a fun thing to do.

Pixel Qi is taking the completely wrong approach

The right way to do it is to have someone like Dell offer Pixel Qi screens as an upgrade and to have Acer and Asus sell netbooks built using Pixel Qi screens and optimized for them.

With the current do it yourself model there are some big stumbling blocks –

  1. You void the warranty.
  2. You risk your netbook/laptop. There’s no guarantee it works after the screen replacement.
  3. You’re paying for a LCD screen you won’t use.¬†
  4. You have to do it all yourself.
  5. It’s not easy or convenient.¬†
  6. The power system and the netbook itself haven’t been optimized for Pixel Qi screens.
  7. There isn’t any reading specific software on the netbook and definitely not anything aimed at the Pixel Qi screen.

Perhaps Pixel Qi are really interested in seeing what modders can do. Perhaps they haven’t been able to strike enough good parternships. Whatever the reason for their DIY approach it’s not scalable and it’s definitely not how to kick off a product launch.

Do¬†Pixel Qi¬†really want the first Pixel Qi capable devices to be hacked together netbooks that aren’t optimized for the screen or for reading?

When people compare the Kindle and the iPad against Pixel Qi capable devices the last thing you’d want is for it to be a modded $200 first generation netbook with no software or hardware built to take advantage of the magic Pixel Qi screen.

Pixel Qi have brought us the future – Pictures, Video

First off we have a side by side comparison of the Kindle’s screen with the Pixel Qi screen in epaper mode (courtesy Pixel Qi’s blog; click the image for the full resolution picture) –

Kindle Screen Vs Pixel Qi ePaper Mode
Kindle Screen Vs Pixel Qi ePaper Mode

Next we have a mind-blowing video (courtesy charbax)- [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7ZErQ5Kl6w].

This changes everything – absolutely no doubt.

Forrester have a research report for $1999 (featured in a forthcoming post) that talks about full frame video on eReaders by 2011. Mr. Bezos talks about how color kindles are multiple years away.

2011? No – it’s here. Take a look at the video – those are screens out of a full fab, not some prototype.

Well, actually it’s going to be end 2009 for¬†the first¬†big¬†batch of PixelQi screens¬†and early 2010 for devices optimized for the Pixel Qi screen.

I love how in the video the Pixel QI COO, John Ryan¬†says –

No, not out of the lab, it actually came out of a full fab¬†… We¬†can get to manufacturing tens of thousands of screens a day.

The future is here.

Will Amazon use Pixel Qi 3qi screens?

Don’t see any other option for Amazon.¬†Also, why wouldn’t they?¬†You have¬†this amazing 3 mode screen that lets you switch between watching color videos and reading ebooks in epaper mode. There’s a backlight.

It really addresses some of the top criticisms of the Kindle i.e.

  1. Lack of color. With 3qi Kindles you could switch to color mode whenever you wanted.
  2. Lack of Video. That’s supported.
  3. Lack of functionality beyond reading. You can have a full fledged netbook + ereader.
  4. Lack of backlight.

The big challenge for Amazon will be to figure out how to still keep the focus on reading.

There are two additional drawbacks –

  1. It does not address Touch as touch still harms the readability. So we might be a long ways away from a touch 3qi screen.
  2. The screens are still expensive to manufacture i.e. somewhere below $200. So Color Kindles, if and when they’re made from 3qi screens, will probably be $100-$150 more than black and white Kindles.

John Ryan admits the Kindle’s eInk screen has some advantages –

  1. Kindle has a whiter white than we do.
  2. Draws less power.

He also talks of how 3qi screens have faster screen refresh which enables faster editing and being able to watch movies. He shows a somewhat slow looking ice hockey video.

PixelQi have brought us 2011 in 2009.

Instead of a $1,999 Forrester report talking about video epaper in 2011 you will be able to buy a sub $500 netbook/ereader with a Pixel Qi screen by end 2009. Hopefully Amazon adopts the technology and gets us a color Kindle 3 by early 2010.

Pixel Qi 3qi Hybrid Screen Pictures finally out

The 1st pictures of Pixel Qi’s 3qi screen are now out on¬†Mary Lou Jepsen’s Blog. Depending on which page you read (blog or their website) the screens will be in ereaders and netbooks by¬†Fall 2009, or End 2009.¬†Here are¬†the¬†pictures –

PixelQi in Full Color Mode (backlight on), side by side with Pixel Qi Screen in ePaper mode (backlight off)

3Qi Screen from PixelQi in color and epaper modes
3Qi Screen from PixelQi in color and epaper modes

PixelQi ePaper Mode outdoors

The 3qi epaper screen outdoors
The 3qi epaper screen outdoors

Details on the 3qi screen

  1. Size is 10.1″ diagonal. ¬†
  2. Screens will be available for netbooks and ereaders in late 2009.
  3. 3qi screens support video refresh and fully saturdated color.
  4. ePaper mode has 3 times resolution of fully saturated color mode to enable better readability.
  5. In 2009 PixelQi are focusing on being a run-in change into netbooks and ereaders which means the devices will not be optimized for these screens and benefits will not be fully felt.
  6. In 2010, PixelQi aim for full integration and to improve battery life by 5-fold.  
  7. They are pretty clear that they are not connected to EInk Corporation and do not use electrophoretic technology.
  8. The resolution in epaper mode is 205 dpi – better than the Kindle’s 167 dpi.

3qi screens in Acer Aspire Ones

Time got to play with some Acer netbooks that had the 3qi screens incorporated and loved the 3qi screens. Time is already proclaiming the technology the future of ereading.

A few snippets –

On these Acer prototypes, the 3Qi display managed to give an extra hour or so of battery life.

In black and white, reflective mode, I couldn’t see any difference when we held up the Kindle alongside the PQ-modded Netbook.

Probably the most important part –

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‚ÄĒwell under $200, she said. Such a device ought to enjoy 40 hours or so of use as an e-reader, between charges.

What this means for Kindle and Amazon

The first thing to keep in mind is that Mary LJ herself is saying first quarter 2010 is when a manufacturer would be able to come out with a device that utilizes the 3qi screens well. Amazon is as well placed as any other manufacturer to use these screens for an ereader/netbook (if they choose to).

The second is that ‘well under $200’ is not good enough at this point. eInk screens cost around $60-$70. $100 more for a color screen with video? Perhaps.

Amazon basically has to choose between a few different strategies, two of which are –

  1. Incorporate 3qi into a color Kindle 3.  
  2. Wait for the ‘multiple years away’ color eInk screen. An exceptionally bad choice in my opinion.

PixelQi has thrust ereader technology into the future.

A PixelQi color ereader/netbook in early 2010 or an eInk color ereader sometime in 2011? Thats a really easy choice to make.