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.

Kindle vs Samsung Reader E6

When the Samsung E6 eReader becomes officially available will update this post to a full Kindle Vs Samsung Reader E6 review. For now let’s just contrast the E6 and the Kindle based on what we know.

Kindle vs Samsung Reader – Areas Samsung E6 Reader will probably win

The Samsung E6 is an eWriter in addition to an eReader and brings significant advantages -

  1. A touchscreen and a special electromagnetic resonance stylus pen which allows for handwriting and use as a digital notebook. It also makes note-taking much easier. 
  2. A clear, readable screen – The video seems to show that the touch layer hasn’t affected readability. Will confirm this after it formally releases.
  3. Free Books from Google. These are the standard million plus free public domain titles.  
  4. WiFi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth support. Samsung haven’t said much abou 3G support.  
  5. Voice recording functionality to add memos.
  6. Utilities like a Journal, Calendar, and Organizer - although the Kindle App Store should neutralize this advantage when it arrives. The Organizer syncs with Outlook.
  7. Slider form factor that enables a more compact eReader.
  8. Support for ePub.
  9. Samsung EmoLink technology that lets users share content between Samsung readers.
  10. Micro SD card slot.
  11. B&N’s LendMe feature that lets users share their eBook with one other user one time for 14 days (if Publishers have enabled it).

The E6 also adds some features to help it take on the Kindle (not advantages but equalizers) -

  1. Lower price of $299. It’s much better than the earlier $399 price Samsung had quoted.
  2. Barnes & Noble’s Library of eBooks. Note: This isn’t really an advantage as the Kindle Store is better in range and price. 
  3. Text to Speech Technology.  
  4. Built-in mp3 player.
  5. 2 GB internal memory.

Please check my post reviewing features of the Samsung E6 for a good video of the E6. The E6 hadn’t seemed like much of a threat because Samsung had talked about a $399 price point. However, now that Engadget has revealed that the Samsung E6 will be retailing at B&N for just $299 Kindle vs E6 becomes a very interesting contest.

Kindle vs Samsung Reader E6 – Areas the Kindle will probably win

The Kindle has to ward off new contenders like the E6 until the arrival of the Kindle 3 and the Kindle App Store and it has some weapons to help it -

  1. Kindle Store is still the best eBook store with the lowest prices and the cheapest prices.
  2. The Kindle is priced at $259 and it’s a solid, low price. 
  3. In terms of free books the Kindle has the support of the Internet Archive (1.8 million titles), the British Library (65,000 titles), its own free public domain books (20,000 plus titles) and can also use Google Books (they can be converted into Kindle format).
  4. WhisperNet with free Internet, worldwide free Wikipedia, 60 second downloads, and WhisperSync.
  5. Apps for iPhone, Blackberry, PC, and soon Mac that all share notes and your place in your book.
  6. The simplest to use interface and a focus on reading.
  7. A physical qwerty keyboard (although the keys are tiny).
  8. Available Internationally in 170 plus countries (over a hundred of which have WhisperNet).

The Kindle App Store will provide some additional benefits -

  1. All the basic utilities like a calculator, a calendar, a notepad, and more.
  2. New apps we haven’t thought of yet.

The Kindle App Store is a big unknown and it’ll be cool to see what developers dream up – It might end up becoming an unbeatable advantage.

Kindle vs Samsung E6 – Recommendation before E6 is released

Kindle vs Samsung is quite a contest -

  • The E6′s WiFi is not as good as the Kindle’s 3G but it’s close.
  • You get ePub support and B&N’s store and Google Books with the E6 and that almost balances out the Kindle Store’s advantages.
  • With features like voice recording, EmoLink, LendMe, and Outlook syncing the E6 beats the Kindle on add-on features.
  • The Kindle’s free Internet is a big advantage.
  • The Kindle App Store is a wild card and in my opinion will become a big Kindle advantage.

The Samsung E6 might edge out the Kindle because of its support for writing and taking down notes. That eWriter functionality adds a ton of value and the Kindle, even with its free Internet and upcoming Kindle App Store, might not be able to take on that.

If taking down notes and having a Journal is not a big deal to you or the Kindle App Store and Free Internet are very important to you then the Kindle is the device for you. Otherwise it’s worth waiting for the Samsung E6 to see how it reviews.

Amazon has to do something big before the E6 launches – Otherwise the Kindle is likely to lose the Kindle vs Samsung Reader E6 battle.

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