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’.


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