What happens to Kindle, eReaders if iPad 2 uses Mirasol?

Thanks to OIC for this comment -

i think an iPad with mirasol can kill all competitors. There are only two thing iPad doesn’t have, that is low power usage and free internet

It brings up an interesting question -

What happens to the Kindle, and to eReaders, if the iPad 2 comes with a Qualcomm Mirasol screen?

What does a Mirasol screen add to the iPad 2?

Actually, quite a lot -

  1. It’s ePaper and it makes the screen very readable – no backlight, very good pixel density, very good clarity.
  2. It’s readable in sunlight and bright light.
  3. It makes the battery life amazing. 
  4. You don’t lose color. You could use IR like Sony did to preserve touch.
  5. You have a cool, new technology. In the hands of Steve Jobs it would turn into the coolest thing created since advertising.

These are considerable advantages. The problem is that there are also downsides.

Downsides of using Mirasol

When we look at what Apple’s needs for an iPad 2 screen are, we find that Mirasol has quite a few disadvantages -

  1. The color is not as bright as LCD, and Mirasol powered iPad 2s would look terrible compared to LCD and Amoled displays. 
  2. The price is going to be higher than for LCD screens of comparable size.
  3. The refresh speed might not be enough for games and movies. Yes, Qualcomm says it’s very good – But it’s nothing close to what you can get with LCDs, and is likely to be insufficient for movies.
  4. Qualcomm probably can’t manufacture enough Mirasol displays to meet Apple’s needs. iPad 2 might sell a few million units a month – there’s no way enough Mirasol displays can be made. Additionally, the new Mirasol screen production facility doesn’t go live until 2012 – so there would be screen supply problems for a whole year.
  5. Mirasol displays aren’t tested with customers or in production devices. The last thing Apple wants is to use untested screens on devices that go out to millions of people – if anything goes wrong Apple would have to recall everything.
  6. Apple would have to figure out a way to create a touch screen with the same level of smoothness as the iPad screen. Mirasol are just figuring out their screen.
  7. Mirasol would probably not be able to deliver the level of pixel resolution Apple wants – so no Retina display.
  8. No backlight for reading at night or in low light conditions. A back-light is especially important in a device that is primarily meant for surfing, playing games, and watching movies.

That’s a lot of negatives. In fact, the negatives make it highly unlikely that Apple will use Mirasol for the iPad 2.

Still, it’s worth pondering what the impact might be.

What would happen to Kindle, eReaders if a Mirasol iPad 2 were released?

Let’s say Apple disregards all the negatives and releases a Mirasol powered iPad 2. We get a very interesting situation -

  1. iPad 2 probably loses on price and wins on value for money. Let’s say it’s $350. Kindle 3 would be in a bit of trouble. Kindle WiFi would be fine. Nook Color would be in quite a bit of trouble.
  2. iPad 2 would probably not have free Internet or free store browsing.
  3. No more ‘readable in sunlight’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  4. No more ‘easier on the eyes’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  5. iPad 2 would have color – it would be the only ePaper based eReader with a color screen.
  6. Steve Jobs would find a way to turn Mirasol into the second coming of Christ.
  7. All the disadvantages of Mirasol are only disadvantages when compared against LCD tablets. When compared against eInk eReaders they turn into advantages – color, refresh speed, newness, and so forth.
  8. Perhaps most importantly, Mirasol is NEW and SHINY and LATEST GENERATION. It’s the future of ePaper and eInk, and it instantly makes all other eReaders seem ancient. It’s not even a difference like eInk Pearl which is hard to quantify – It’s a painfully obvious difference i.e. color vs black and white.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered eReader it would instantly take the #1 position in eReader sales. Most of the people looking to buy a dedicated eReader would prefer Apple’s eReader because it would have color, the newest technology, allow all reading apps, and also support library books.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered iPad 2, all eReader companies would get thrown into crisis mode

Apart from the price factor, there wouldn’t be any reason to pick an eInk powered eReader over a Mirasol powered eReader. A Mirasol powered iPad 2 would be just as good for reading as any other eReader – After all, it is ePaper.

It would force every other eReader maker to release color eInk powered eReaders. In the interim they would have to cut prices to below $100 to avoid a total destruction of sales.

Chances are eReader companies won’t have to go through such a crisis.

Will Apple use a color eReader screen on a device that is a Do-Everything?

Apple gets two huge non-reading related advantages if it uses Mirasol – great battery life, readability in sunlight. It gets two huge reading-related advantages – a screen that is easier on the eyes, a screen that is like ink on paper.

At the same time it makes a lot of compromises – inferior touch, inferior color, slower screen refresh speed, an untested technology, no Retina display marketing magic, higher screen costs, higher production risks, no backlight.

For all the people buying iPad 2 for non-reading related reasons, which is probably 80% or more of people buying the iPad 2, that’s a bad trade-off. It makes no sense to upset 80% of your customers.

It’s highly unlikely Apple will build iPad 2 using Mirasol screens. We are, however, left with one interesting possibility - Apple might be building a non-iPad reading tablet.

The 10% chance Apple will release a Reading Tablet

Apple sold 10 million plus iPads last year. At the same time Amazon might have sold between 5 and 8 million Kindles (just guesses and rumors).

Steve Jobs might be thinking – People would get library books. People would get a choice of reading apps. They would get color and animated page turns and a device that does more than just read. Why not make an iReader along with the iPad 2?

He might just have an iReader ready to launch alongside the iPad 2. The iPad 2 follows up on the iPad. The iReader has a 7″ screen, is closer to Nook Color than to Kindle, and targets the eReader market.

There are rumors that iPad 2 focuses more on reading. There are even rumors that it has a special screen that reduces glare. What if the rumors are wrong and all the reading-focused features are being built into a separate Apple Reading Tablet?

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