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.

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