Color Kindle. Will Color Kindle ever arrive?

Every time Color Kindle comes up I understand how poor old Captain Ahab must have felt whilst chasing Moby Dick.

Today’s exciting news that a Color Kindle might be arriving in 2014 or 2015 might lead to yet another Color Kindle non-show.

Here’s a sampling of past Kindle Review posts discussing Color Kindle and Color eReaders -

  1. Feb 20th, 2012 – DigiTimes claimed that 3 million color eInk screens for Color Kindle would start shipping March 2012.

    DigiTimes, which has a split personality (30% of the time Nostradamus, 70% of the time your local tavern drunkard prophesizing the 2012 Mayan apocalypse), makes three very bold Color Kindle claims -
    1.EInk (the maker of Kindle eInk displays) has won a big order to make 6″ color eInk Panels for Amazon (presumably for color eInk Readers or color eInk powered Tablets).
    2.The order is OVER 3 million screens a month.
    3.The shipments start in March 2012. Say what?

  2. Jan 22nd, 2011 – Samsung bought Liquavista and got everyone excited about color eReaders from Samsung. Notice the status of Color eReaders in January 2011 -

    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.

  3. Jan 5th, 2011 – Mirasol put up a video of their color eReader (courtesy Qualcomm, try the HD version in full screen mode).
  4. November 8th, 2010 – Hanvon talked about its color eReader.

    It’s got a 9.68″ screen. A screen that is color eInk from the same company (PVI/eInk) that makes the Kindle 3′s eInk Pearl screen. It’ll be available in March 2011 in China – perhaps in the US too. It’ll be priced at $440.

    This might be the first color eInk eReader. Of course, Amazon and Mirasol and Sony might spoil its debut between now and then.

    New York Times has written a never-ending, rambling, article on the Hanvon Color eInk eReader.

  5. September 8th, 2010 – Qualcomm confirmed that a color eReader from an unknown partner will release in Q1, 2011. It also said that a partner invested $2 billion into a Mirasol screen production plant. Yes, $2 billion. Invested into a plant that makes invisible Mirasol screens that no one has yet seen.
  6. March 2010 – PVI promises Color eReaders in 2010. It actually said it’ll start mass-producing color eInk displays in Q4, 2010.
  7. Jan 8th, 2010 – BeBook demos Color eReader using Liquavista. Now, 3 years and 4 months later, Amazon buys Liquavista and says ‘It’s Early Days’. Yeah, Early Days that never end.
  8. Jan 7th, 2010 – Claims that a Color Kindle with Qualcomm Mirasol display would arrive by end 2010.
  9. May 31st, 2009 – Pixel Qi Hybrid Screen pictures. Did Kindle get Pixel Qi? No, only some tablet called Notion Ink Adam and a few other devices which haven’t found mainstream success. Here’s a Pixel Qi video from June 3rd, 2009 –  .
  10. Dec 5th, 2008 – PVI eInk Technology Roadmap. The key part is this:

    While there are rumors of a 3 year waiting period, eInk’s own VP has said that color screens will be available in 2009. I’d take that claim lightly – here’s a picture from a press release from Oct 2005 that talked about “an electronic paper color prototype that achieves 12-bit color in a 400×300 pixel format with resolution of 83 pixels per inch, using a custom color filter from strategic partner Toppan “. Color eInk screens have been touted since 2001, and a hard 2009 release date is no certainity. Here’s the 2005 image -

    eInk Color - in 2009?

    eInk Color – in 2009?

    And next, a video from May, 2008 showing an actual eInk color screen –

Notice the three key things in that article from December 2008 -

  1. An image of a color eInk screen from 2005. PVI eInk have been demoing Color eInk screens since 2005. It’s now 2013. 8 YEARS!
  2. A video showing an actual eInk color screen, from May 2008. It’s now FIVE YEARS exactly.
  3. PVI eInk promising color eInk screens in 2009. It’s now 2013. Please Note: By February 2009 PVI eInk had changed its tune and started promising Flexible Displays by 2010 (haven’t arrived), and Color eInk Screens by 2011 (also haven’t arrived).

Color eInk is even more elusive than Moby Dick.

Yet, the promise lingers. Is something different this time?

After 8 years of demos and videos and companies buying each other, is something different? Amazon buying Liquavista from Samsung is perhaps an indicator that a Color Kindle is set to arrive in 2013 or 2014. Let’s hope so. We do need a Color Kindle to keep eReaders exciting and competitive with Tablets.

The Moby Dickest thing would be if Amazon released a new Kindle Fire Tablet using the Liquavista screens but completely ignored the eInk Kindles.

Color Kindle? Amazon buys Liquavista, makers of color eInk (for Color Kindle?)

Color Kindle suddenly seems a lot more likely.

Nate at The Digital Reader reports on Amazon buying Liquavista, maker of Color eInk and potentially Color Kindle screen technology.

The key points -

  1. Amazon bought Liquavista from Samsung. Perhaps for a bit under $100 million.
  2. Amazon used a Delaware LLC to try and hide the fact.
  3. Nate at The Digital Reader (for reasons only known to him) scrutinized the Dutch Chamber of Commerce Filings and discovered something was amiss.
  4. Amazon finally confirmed – Yes, our nameless faceless ‘OMG it’s so important to be secret when your device sales are not in the hundreds of millions’ Delaware LLC company did indeed buy a company that makes color eInk Technology. No, it’s not for a Color Kindle. Whatever might give you that idea.
  5. Samsung had bought Liquavista from Phillips Netherlands (if my memory serves me correctly). Now it’s sold Liquavista to Amazon.
  6. Liquavista’s color ePaper technology is based on electrowetting.
  7. Bloomberg had first reported on the possibility of Samsung selling Liquavista to Amazon in March 2013. Which is when the whole possibility of Color Kindle still being on Amazon’s roadmap came up. Would be good news indeed.

Here’s Amazon’s super boring admission -

We are always looking for new technologies we may be able to incorporate into our products over the long term. The Liquavista team shares our passion for invention and is creating exciting new technologies with a lot of potential. It’s still early days, but we’re excited about the possibilities and we look forward to working with Liquavista to develop these displays.

They make it sound as if they bought a woodpecker’s patented pecking technology.

It’s color eInk. Get excited Amazon (perhaps this is what corporate speak excited sounds like). Now you can stop pretending 25% more screen contrast is a technology breakthrough. Hopefully also stop thinking users are naive enough to believe you spent FOUR years developing the technology to light a screen.

Also, ‘It’s still early days’? You mean ‘early days’ compared to 2005 when PVI/eInk was showing off prototypes of color eInk? Or ‘early days’ compared to 2011 when Qualcomm Mirasol was falling in love with butterfly wings and frogs’ legs?

Here’s something exciting to brighten up your day (courtesy Electronista’s article on Color Kindle and Liquavista) – .

You know what, the more one sees all these videos about technologies that MIGHT revolutionize everything, the more one misses the Apple of old that only announced new technology stuff AFTER it was ready to buy in device form.

Does this mean a Color Kindle eReader will arrive in 2014 or 2015?

Unfortunately, it’s not guaranteed that a Color Kindle eReader powered by Liquavista’s color eInk Technology will be released. Ever. It seems that Liquavista technology can be used for a wide variety of devices. So it could possibility be used in (in decreasing order of probability) -

  1. Kindle Fire HD. Using a color eInk technology would give Kindle Fire Tablets 2 to 4 weeks battery life. This might not happen because Amazon might continue with LCD screens for Kindle Fire HD.
  2. Kindle. This makes the most sense for the future of the Kindle eReader line. To expand to color eInk. This might not happen if Amazon decides the price of the Liquavista screen makes the overall Kindle price prohibitive. Of course, it would make sense to add a high-end Color Kindle and that has a better chance of happening.
  3. Kindle Phone. Battery life and novelty would be the big wins. The loss would be that Liquavista’s Color eInk is far behind LCD and IPS-LCD and AMOLED screen technologies in non-battery life dimensions. If Amazon is going after a Kindle Phone 3D with some sort of new holographic screen technology, then it’s hard to see Liquavista fitting in.
  4. Kindle TV. If Amazon decides to make an actual TV (as opposed to Kindle TV being just a set-top box), then Liquavista’s screen technology could be used here. Of course, the difference between LED and LCD screens and Liquavista’s Color eInk screen would be greatly magnified with HD Movies and HD TV broadcasts. This seems the least likely.
  5. Some unknown Kindle product. Lab126 is hiring so many people it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were working on Kindle Trampolines and Kindle Burrito Rolling Machines. Who knows where Liquavista fits in.

I’d put the chance of the first (Kindle Fire HD with Color eInk) at 20%. Color Kindle (eReader with Color eInk) perhaps in the 10% to 15% range. The chance of the 3rd (Kindle Phone with Color eInk screen) perhaps at 10%.

Color Kindle still remains unlikely, especially in 2013. However, Amazon’s acquisition of Liquavista means the Color Kindle Release Date perhaps shifted from ‘after we colonize Mars’ to ‘sometime in end 2014 to mid 2015′.

eReaders with Color eInk Displays – Will we ever get them?

Color E-Ink, technology for displaying text and images on an eReader in color, exists today. It’s just not good enough and not cheap enough yet.

We have a lot of ‘Reading Tablets’ (such as the new Kindle Fire HD and the Nook Tablet). However, these are tablets with LCD screens with minor adjustments (such as an anti-glare coating) to make the LCD screen good for reading. It’s far from the ideal color eInk screen.

While LCD displays are stunning they have their limitations.

Some Limitations of LCD Screens

  • Difficult to read on LCDs for a long time. Unless you are LCD-compatible you’ll experience eye-strain.
  • Difficult to read in direct sunlight. Pretty much impossible, actually.
  • High contrast and brightness makes it difficult to read it in a dimly lit room. You have to dim the brightness and adjust the theme to a Night Reading theme.
  • Some people find it difficult to sleep after reading for a long time on a back-lit screen (LCD display). The brightness messes with the Circadian rhythm (your body assumes it’s not night yet because a bright light was right in your face so recently).
  • More power consumption, drains battery very fast. IGZO screens are trying to solve this in one way (to only refresh the screen once per second when displaying photos and other static items). However, color eInk is a much more promising solution.
  • Devices using LCD screens can sometimes heat up.

A LCD display is excellent for media consumption and performing utility tasks like checking mail, browsing (short durations). However, LCD displays are not the ideal book reading screen (unless you are LCD compatible or think that a device/screen optimized for reading is a stupid idea).

Is Color eInk the solution? Is anyone EVER going to ship eReaders with color eInk? 

Black and White eInk screens (16 shades of grey, not quite as exciting as 50) have been the screens of choice for eReaders (Sony Reader, Kindle, Nook). This is despite the fact that eInk can only display 16 shades of grey.

Why are eInk screens so popular for eReaders?

E-Ink is a reflective display technology and it works by reflecting the light that falls on it (unlike the back-lit LCD). This makes eInk ideal for reading in sunlight.

eInk also only changes the screen when required. There is no constant refreshing of the screen (as you have in TVs and Computer LCD screens). So it only uses power when the screen is changed. This makes eInk very good for uses where the screen is not often changed (reading, posters, price tags).

Since the screen is not refreshing constantly. Since the technology is very similar to actual ink on paper – there are eInk dots that are moved up and down to show different shades of grey. Since there is no light coming out of the screen at your eyes.

eInk is great for reading.

E-Ink is the closest we have got to the real paper experience. Readers find it very comfortable to read from eInk screens, regardless of duration.

LCD-compatible people claim that they can read War and Peace off a LCD screen at one go without bothering their eyes even a bit. However, for us LCD-incompatible mere mortals, eInk is the only screen that allows us to read non-stop for long stretches without eye strains or worse (headaches, loss of sleep, etc.).

eInk uses very little power and thus eReaders using eInk do not heat up. This is critical for eReaders as people hold them in their hand(s) while reading.

E-Ink displays are also light weight.

However, eInk is far from perfect

The biggest disadvantage of E-Ink is that currently eInk screens are only available in Black and White. Color eInk screens have been promised for years and years. However, they either have very washed out colors, or very high prices.

This puts Amazon and B&N and Sony in a bind. They would probably LOVE to get color eInk and makes cool new Kindles and Nooks and Sony Readers. However, the technology hasn’t arrived yet.

Limitations of Color E-Ink and eInk

  • Low/Slow page turn, page refresh rates. Since the dots of electronic ink are literally ‘moving’ every time the page refreshes, it’s hard to match LCD screens. Advances are being made but we are still a long way off from catching LCD screens on speed.
  • Relatively expensive (this is in part due to lack of bulk production capacity).
  • Limitations on natural color reproduction, dull colors, limited color palette. Color eInk screens shown so far can’t compare with the richness of IPS and AMOLED displays.
  • No multimedia, video display capability. Most Color eInk display technologies do not support Video.

To compete with LCDs (or to even have a chance), eInk needs color and video support and lower prices and higher volumes and faster evolution. Right now, none of this is happening.

Prominent manufacturers of eInk and Color E-Ink

E Ink Corporation (eInk Triton): E-Ink has almost become the de facto standard for monochrome eReader displays. Can E-Ink repeat that success with its color E-Ink Triton display?

They do have the technology and there is even a product in the market (Ectaco Jetbook Color) that uses the color E-Ink Triton technology. However, none of the big eReader makers have embraced eInk Triton.

Pixel Qi:  Pixel Qi’s e-paper display technology modifies existing LCD technology to create multiple modes. A black and white reading mode that consumes very little power. A color mode that lets you use video. Combine the modes and you can display full color video and images, read in sunlight, and consume less power.

Pixel Qi has a multi-mode screen whose back-light can be switched on and off by the reader. When the back-light is switched on, it works similar to a LCD display and when the back-light is switched off, it becomes a reflective screen for reading books. The technology has been implemented in the Notion Ink Adam tablet. Again, none of the big eReader makers have adopted the technology.

Mirasol: There are at least four devices using Mirasol displays in the Korean and Chinese markets. Kyobo eReader was perhaps the most popular among them. However, Kyobo discontinued its color eReader products. Mirasol recently decided to license its technology to others instead of manufacturing its own displays. All signs that perhaps the technology has no future.

Plastic Logic: Plastic Logic is another company with a color e-paper technology that has decided to license its technology to others. There were no products released with Plastic Logic displays, even thought they sent out a lot of very impressive Press Releases.

Fujitsu e-paper: Fujitsu was one of the first vendors to bring out an eReader using color e-paper technology (Fujitsu FLEPia Lite). They even did a technology refresh. However, their color ePaper screen was too expensive and was not released in the West.

Fujitsu is now planning to come out with improved color eReaders that are flexible (bendable) and have better displays. Let’s hope they succeed.

Samsung: Samsung bought Liquavista, a company which manufactures color e-paper displays that work with and without back-light. These displays also have limited video capability.

Samsung is working to release these electrowetting-based color e-paper displays. These will be flexible and might even support video. Samsung’s backing should increase the chances of this technology making it to actual users at some point of time.

Conclusion

Color eInk isn’t here yet. There are a lot of contenders. However, none of the competing technologies seem to be ready. None of them seem to be able to land a big client like Amazon or Sony.

There also seems to have been a shift. Instead of focusing on eReaders with Color eInk, companies that make Color eInk seem to be trying to take on LCD Tablets. That’s a really strange move. Why not start with a smaller, less competitive market first? Why would you try to take on a firmly entrenched screen technology like LCD technology?

It is actually quite disappointing to see that the major eReader vendors (Read: Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo, etc) are focusing on Tablets and aren’t releasing any Color eInk display powered eReaders. You’d think that a Color eInk powered eReader would make for a wonderful TextBook Reader and also a very good device for Magazines and Newspapers. It would have the sort of battery life that LCD powered Tablets can only dream about.

Amazon has recently released a lot of new Kindles but none of them have a color eInk screen. Will B&N spring a surprise? Will Samsung?

Color Kindle closer than expected? New $199 8 GB Nook Tablet?

Color Kindle might be much closer than expected.

DigiTimes, which has a split personality (30% of the time Nostradamus, 70% of the time your local tavern drunkard prophesizing the 2012 Mayan apocalypse), makes three very bold Color Kindle claims -

  1. EInk (the maker of Kindle eInk displays) has won a big order to make 6″ color eInk Panels for Amazon (presumably for color eInk Readers or color eInk powered Tablets).
  2. The order is OVER 3 million screens a month.
  3. The shipments start in March 2012. Say what?

If Digitime is right (and that’s a big IIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFF), it would mean Kindle 5 is the much awaited Color Kindle. That Amazon is confident enough in what they have to order 3 million screens a month.

 E Ink Holdings (EIH) reportedly has landed orders for 6-inch color e-book reader modules from Amazon with shipments to begin in March …

Shipments of the touched-enabled e-book reader modules are expected to top three million units a month, the paper said.

3 million shipments a month makes you wonder exactly what Amazon are using these screens for.

Do we have a color eInk Kindle eReader or a color eInk powered Kindle Tablet?

The size of the order i.e. 3 million screens a month, makes me think Amazon is planning on putting these color eInk screens into Tablets and changing the equation on Tablet battery life.

Reasons a color eInk powered Kindle Tablet makes sense:

  1. The battery life creates a huge competitive advantage. It also combines with low price and Amazon’s ecosystem to create a trifecta of hard-to-beat advantages. 
  2. Amazon really needs to do something to improve Kindle Fire. Right now it’s surviving on low price and Amazon’s brand.
  3. There has been talk all along that Kindle Fire 1 was a stop-gap measure – until the ‘real’ Kindle Tablet could be released. That makes sense – why would a company that built a Kindle from the ground-up just clone a Playbook to make the Kindle Fire?
  4. B&N is releasing an 8 GB Nook Tablet for $199 and might drop the Nook Color price to $179 or even $149. Amazon perhaps needs something NEW to compete. More on that below.
  5. Color eInk is a sufficiently cool technology to try and make it the centerpiece of a new Kindle Tablet offering.
  6. Amazon could just add it to the Kindle Fire/Kindle Tablet family. As another option.
  7. There’s something undeniably cool and convenient about a Tablet with a week of battery life.

Reasons a color eInk powered Kindle 5 eReader make sense:

  1. Color eInk probably isn’t up to scratch yet – how will it compete with LCDs?
  2. Color eInk allows Color Kindle to compete in textbooks and in comics and certain other areas.
  3. Color eInk removes one of the perceived ‘huge weaknesses’ of the eInk Kindles.
  4. Color eInk gives Amazon a jump over B&N and Sony and Kobo in the dedicated eReader market.
  5. Color eInk will appeal greatly to some casual readers.

Actually, there are enough points here to leave me in considerable confusion as to exactly what Amazon intends to do with these screens. I’d say – 75% chance we get a Color Kindle which is the first big technological jump in eReaders since someone realized you don’t have to put a touch layer under the glass. 25% chance Amazon has some magical and revolutionary new Kindle Tablet that makes perfect pancakes and outlasts the Energizer Bunny.

Regardless of whether it’s a Color Kindle or a Color eInk powered ThermoNuclear Kindle Tablet, it’s much-needed. Why?

B&N is taking the fight to Amazon with $199 8 GB Nook Tablet

Barnes and Noble is supposedly releasing a new Nook Tablet on Wednesday. The details on Nook Tablet from The Verge -

  1. Nook Tablet with 8 GB memory for $199. The current $249 model has 16 GB memory.
  2. Available at WalMart starting 12:01 am on February 22nd.
  3. Exact same as $249 Nook Tablet except 8GB memory instead of 16 GB.

This has obviously led to some speculation – 

  1. Nook Color price will drop. Yes, obviously. Perhaps to $179 or $149.
  2. Kindle Fire price will drop. Yes, obviously. Perhaps to $149.  
  3. Android Tablet sales will increase. Yes, obviously. It’s entirely logical to assume that people will buy more of a Tablet when it’s 20% to 25% cheaper.

The Nook Tablet is really, really good. Kindle Fire is good too. However, two of the main things that made Kindle Fire competitive with Nook Tablet (and probably outsell it by a 2.25:1 margin) were the $199 price and the Amazon brand/ecosystem.

If Nook Tablet comes in at $199, then it’s instantly the better tablet for anyone who doesn’t care about Amazon’s ecosystem and brand. Amazon will have no choice – it’ll have to drop Kindle Fire to $179 or $149. 

Perhaps just as disruptive will be B&N dropping the Nook Color to $179 or $149. As we go lower, the number of people able to buy a device increases exponentially. The $250 barrier, the $200 barrier, the $150 barrier, the magical and guillotine-wielding-revolutionary $100 barrier.

Kindle Fire is $199. The faster, hardware-volume-button-equipped, SD-card-slot-possessing Nook Tablet 8 GB will be $199. Nook Color will be $149 or $179.

The only solution for Amazon – Kindle Fire price drop to $179 or $149, new Color eInk powered Kindle Bonfire. Aah … the joys of Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet competition.

Kindle Color – How soon will Amazon release Kindle Color?

The Kindle finds its market dominance in reading devices threatened by the Nook Color.

Hard core readers might not be tempted by a ‘Reading Tablet’, but casual readers certainly are. Kindle has also faced the iPad onslaught. For better or worse, the Press has managed to create the misconception that eInk has no advantages over LCDs.

On top of that, the Nook Color has come in at $250 and is a reasonable size. It’s done what the iPad couldn’t i.e. reduce the comparison to ‘eInk vs doing more than just reading’.

At some point Reality makes itself felt

After a few weeks with the Nook Color, and after reading at least a dozen effusive reviews, it’s clear that the Nook Color is going to eat up a LOT of the eReader market. Everyone from TeleRead to the main stream press are smitten by Nook Color.

Forget all the other benefits, and just consider surfing the Net – color, a touchscreen, a 7″ screen. That’s one big benefit the Nook Color has over eInk eReaders.

Then consider what happens if people look at the devices side by side – Most of the Kindle’s benefits are things that only become evident after a few days of use. Things like the ease of reading, the lack of distractions, the joy of eInk, the great battery life.

In the 15 to 30 minutes people have in the store, the Nook Color is going to blow away people. It’s a color IPS LCD screen that’s much better than the iPad’s screen. It’s half the price of the iPad. It’s a ‘reading tablet’ with an ‘anti-glare coating’ that creates the perception that it massively bridges the gap between eInk and LCD. It doesn’t, but customers can’t tell that in 15 minutes.

Regardless of what Amazon might think of Nook Color – it’s a real, huge threat. Sooner or later, people are going to realize it’s a really, really good option for anyone who reads one or fewer books a month.

Add on Nook App Store Apps

The one big thing missing from Nook Color are apps. Once it gets decent apps, it’ll fully utilize its advantages (multi-purposeness, touch, color), and match up extremely well against iPad and Kindle.

It might even find a few killer apps that push it ahead. It’s based on Android, so there’s potentially a huge developer base. If B&N plays its cards right, it’ll have thousands of developers working to make the Nook Color better – for the promise of future earnings from apps.

The big danger Nook apps pose is that they might get even the 2-books-a-month people to choose Nook Color over Kindle.

Reality is that Nook Color will eat up market share, and might keep getting better

There are a few big problems the Nook Color creates for the Kindle -

  1. Nook Color does ‘more than just read’ while keeping the price within striking distance of Kindle. The Press has eroded eInk’s perceived value, so it’s enough for B&N to say Nook Color is ‘focused on reading’.
  2. Nook Color is very good.
  3. Nook Color might get much better if B&N runs the Nook App Store well.
  4. Nook Color gets library books and ePub.
  5. eInk doesn’t have color, and might not for a while.

If you’re Amazon, you might be thinking there’s no way a color LCD tablet steals away readers. However, it will. And it’ll keep increasing how many readers it steals – because it’s much more impressive in person.

If you hear from me – Now throwing away my iPhone and iPad are an option. It doesn’t really register.

Then you try reading in bed with the Nook Color, and contrast it with your current best option – It’s much better. Kindle might be better, with the magical cover with built-in reading light – but that’s $60 on top of the $189 of the Kindle 3.

This ‘Reading Tablet’ will damage eReader sales

We still don’t have word of mouth kicking in properly. We still don’t have apps that add additional value. We still have a fascination with the iPad. That’s going to change.

Almost every single review of the Nook Color has been glowing – as good as the iPad, best reading device, best eReader, worth buying. Sooner or later, it starts registering in people’s minds.

Amazon desperately needs a Kindle Color

The combination of the magical phrase ‘Reading tablet’, and an actual solid Tablet that’s focused on reading, means that we have a device that the Kindle can’t fight against. The part of the reader market that likes Nook Color, will not want an eInk device. Additionally, the $250 price keeps the iPad at bay.

Amazon can neither compete with the Kindle, nor with Kindle for iPad. Its only option is to create and release a Kindle Color.

There are signs it might have one in the works. There are hires, such as today’s hire of Jon Rubenstein (head of the team that released iPod, former Palm CEO), that show Amazon might be working on a Kindle Color.

It can’t come soon enough.

First Mover Advantage might make Nook Color unbeatable

If Nook Color manages to -

  1. Sell 3 to 4 million Nook Colors. 
  2. Create a link in people’s minds that it’s the default ‘color eReader’ and the default ‘reading tablet’.
  3. Release a bunch of reading related apps that no other device has, or even apps that no other reading focused device has.
  4. Get word of mouth going, and hit a big growth spurt (the beaten to death hockey stick curve).
  5. Cut down the price to $175 or $200 within 6 months.

Then it’s unbeatable.

It might not seem that way – However, what company in the recent past has been able to dethrone an incumbent?

It’s infinitely difficult. 

Researchers did a study and found that if the #2 product in a market does a lot of advertising, the sales of the #1 product increase more than that of #2. If people start thinking ‘Reading Tablet = Nook Color’ then anything Amazon does to advertise Kindle Color will increase Nook Color sales.

The 6 month to 9 month Window of Opportunity

There are two things Amazon has to hope don’t happen before it launches Kindle Color -

  • That Nook Color becomes the default ‘Reading Tablet’.
  • That the Nook App Store takes off, and developers start making money.

If it can release a Kindle Color in 3 to 6 months, it might avoid both. If it can release a Kindle Color in 6 to 9 months, it might avoid one of the two.

If Amazon doesn’t have an answer for Nook Color within 9 months, then it’s Game Over in the Reading Tablet market.

The obvious question is – We know what Amazon ought to do, but what what will it actually do?

How soon will Amazon release Kindle Color?

There are three broad possibilities -

  1. Amazon has a Kindle Color, or a Kindle Tablet, in the works, and it’s coming out within the next 6 to 9 months. This would be great, and give it a very good shot at beating Nook Color.
  2. Amazon recently started developing a Kindle Color – It’ll have something out within a year or so. This isn’t good enough – It should instead focus on buying B&N, because if there isn’t a Kindle Color out soon, B&N will rule the Reading Tablet market for a long, long time.
  3. Amazon is going with a Color eInk based eReader. Well, unless the price is $250 or less, it’s not going to work. There’s no way color eInk eReaders are going to be $200.

A February 2011 release of a Kindle Color would make sense. It’s possible Amazon won’t have anything ready by then. With every month that passes after February 2011, Amazon is reducing its chances of catching up with Nook Color.

It’s the strangest thing – At the end of 2010, Year of eReaders vs Tablets, the most dangerous device is a Reading Tablet. In a showdown of Amazon, Google, and Apple – an almost-insolvent B&N has created the most innovative reading device.

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