$99 Kindle, Touch Kindle Next

A $79 Kindle and a Touch Kindle have succeeded the Kindle 3.

At least that’s what Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who used to work at DigiTimes earlier) claims. Given his background at DigiTimes there’s a 50% chance he’s 100% spot on and a 50% chance Amazon never ever releases a touch Kindle.

His $99 Kindle and Kindle Touch predictions are at Apple Insider. Which makes sense given how much Apple Blogs care about the lost art of animated page turns.

Here is what he says Amazon will reveal on Wednesday (in addition to Kindle Fire, the Kindle Tablet) -

  1. $99 Kindle with a 6″ eInk screen, 256 MB RAM, and a faster Freescale processor. He claims it will not have 3G, not have a touch screen, and not have speakers. The $99 price-point will move 8 million of these $99 Kindles. At least that’s what Mr. Kuo thinks.
  2. Kindle Touch with a touch screen (via Infra Red), 6″ eInk screen, 3G capability, and speakers. The processor and RAM will be the same as the $99 version. Ming-Chi Kuo expects that 4 million of these will ship by end of 2011.
  3. A 7″ IPS Kindle Tablet. 512 MB Ram, capacitive touch screen, no 3G connection. He expects Amazon to target a $199 or $249 price point and sell 3 million units by end of 2011.
  4. The release dates are rumored to be – end September for the $99 Kindle and for the Kindle Tablet; early October for Kindle Touch.
  5. The final rumor – That Amazon has a 10.1″ iPad competitor lined up for early 2012 and a 8.9″ Tablet with an amazing form factor that manufacturers are struggling to recreate.

Apparently, Amazon is going to follow up Kindle Fire with Kindle Inferno and Kindle ‘Burning Hell’. Let’s hope Amazon doesn’t take those suggestions seriously.

What would a $99 Kindle mean?

A lot of sales. Sony Reader gets destroyed. Nook Touch sales dip. Kobo sales decimated.

Every other eReader company would have to cut prices immediately and drastically. B&N has a new eReader lined up and it would have to make some hard decisions about whether it would match Kindle on price or not. Nook’s big advantage was library book support and now that’s gone. Which means price becomes very, very critical.

What would a Touch Kindle mean?

Amazon finally catches up with Kobo Touch and Nook Touch. It seems to me that Amazon was forced to do this – that Amazon’s heart wasn’t really in making a token touchscreen eReader.

For people who love touch and/or love having the newest features – Kindle Touch becomes a worthy challenger to the other touch screen eInk eReaders.

Is Amazon making a mistake by playing its hand so early?

Perhaps.

With the $99 eReader – other companies might find it very hard to match the $99 Kindle on price. So no big issues there.

With the Touch eReader – gives Kobo and Nook time to figure out how to beat Kindle over the Holiday Season. Perhaps a mistake.

With the Kindle Tablet – Definitely. Nook Color 2 has the advantage of being a second generation Tablet. By knowing exactly what Kindle Tablet will be, B&N can strategize around it. It probably already has a very solid Tablet and now it can counter Kindle Tablet much more effectively.

It’s very strange. The news of the $99 Kindle and the Kindle Touch is very unexpected. Logically, these were the two options Amazon had and everyone expected it to embrace one of them. No one expected Amazon to do both at the same time, and definitely not in September. Wednesday just might be the next very important date in the annals of eReader history.

How best could an eReader use touch?

The Kindle doesn’t have a touchscreen, the Nook has a 3.5″ navigation touchscreen at the bottom, and Sony Reader has touch implemented via Infra-red sensors. We also have Nook Color, a reading tablet, and iPad, a tablet, using full LCD touch screens.

It’s 5 different ways of using touch with reading devices.

There are also different reading apps for the iPhone, and they use the iPhone’s touchscreen in different ways.

All of this makes one wonder – How best could companies use touch with eReaders and reading devices?

Ways not to use Touch in an eReader

It’s easy to start by pointing out things that don’t work -

  1. Having separate modes for different actions. Sony Readers force users to switch modes for every function – one mode to highlight, another to turn pages, etc.
  2. Having a LCD touchscreen in parallel with an eInk screen. The two screens are so different in nature and speed, that the combination doesn’t work. The Nook felt sluggish and slow partly because the LCD and eInk combination wasn’t working. We don’t even know if such a combination can ever work.
  3. Having confusing touch gestures. Currently, most iPad reading apps make a mess of highlighting versus getting the menu to appear. They are also a bit difficult in terms of turning pages versus highlighting.
  4. Not allowing easy highlighting across pages. Most reading apps just ignore the possibility that you might want to make a highlight across pages.
  5. Keeping the size of pressable areas very small. The bars to extend a highlight are way too small. The options after you tap and hold a word are pretty small too. If a user has tapped a word – he doesn’t need the rest of the screen, and you can make the touchable areas a little bigger, and easier to touch.
  6. Making the on-screen menus small, and keeping very little separation between the items in the menu. If the user is changing the font size or type, there’s little point in restricting the menu to 1/5th of the screen size. Give it a little space, and let there be some separation between the choices.
  7. Ignoring the fact that fingers get in the way. The iPad’s keyboard has this feature where, when you type, it shows the word you’ve pressed – right above where you’ve touched it (and inadvertently hidden it). That’s a good touch, and reading apps need to figure out how they can use a similar feature.

There are quite a few other things we could go into – However, the most needed changes mostly revolve around two aspects.

  1. Making touch actions easy and quick.
  2. Making the various touch actions as distinct from each other as possible.

We’re still looking at the first generation of reading devices with touch screens (except Sony Readers) so we can expect a lot of improvements with time.

Let’s continue by looking at some of the things that do work.

Intelligent ways of using Touch

These are all things that have been done already -

  1. Using pinch and zoom to change text size.
  2. Using a double tap to start or stop automatic scrolling. Then using tilting to change the speed of scrolling.
  3. Using a touch in the top right corner to create a bookmark. This has a downside too – it takes some amount of effort. However, it does make intuitive sense.
  4. Using a single tap at the edge of the screen to turn pages – In parallel with allowing swipes to turn pages. Both are easy intuitive gestures.
  5. Dividing the screen into three vertical portions – Left Page Turn, Menu, Right Page Turn.
  6. A little unsure of whether tap and hold on a word is good, or a bit inefficient. Perhaps it’s both.
  7. After tap and hold, those little bars you can stretch to create a highlight of as much of the page as you want to highlight.
  8. iPad’s keyboard preview feature – which shows what you’re currently touching.
  9. Use of double taps, and specific gestures.

There are a lot of dimensions of touch that can be used to differentiate between different gestures, and to allow for more gestures – number of touches, type of gesture, tilting, placement on the screen, placement relative to words, order of gestures, and so forth.

It makes you wonder what will be done in the coming years.

Suggestions for making the most out of a touchscreen

A few suggestions -

  1. The most often used actions should be the simplest. Which would suggest finding the simplest way to do page turns – A single tap at the edge and/or a swipe work quite well. Perhaps supplement them with an auto-scroll timer, and a scrolling feature.
  2. The different actions should be as distinct from each other as possible.
  3. Keep it to the bare minimum set of actions – Add an advanced mode for power users.
  4. Multiple steps should be avoided as much as possible. Users would much rather use a double tap than navigate a two-step action menu.
  5. There should be an option for personalization – so users can use actions they are comfortable with.
  6. For advanced users there should be the option to unlock an advanced set of gestures.
  7. Any pressable area should be large enough. So it doesn’t take a ton of focus to get it right.
  8. The cost of a wrong touch should be small – For example, if you highlight the wrong phrase – There should be an easy way to undo it or edit it.
  9. When there are multiple options – they should have both large pressable buttons and separation. Having them right next to each other puts stress on the user.
  10. Use all the touch options available. Why not replace tap and hold with – circle a word for the meaning, highlight a phrase using your finger as a highlighter, draw a question mark to search on Google. The finger highlighting has potential to interfere with page turns – perhaps it’s double tap and then highlight.
  11. Use the various touch dimensions available to make gestures as distinct from each other as possible. We have tilting (for devices with accelerometers), voice commands (for devices with microphones), different shapes, different screen areas, and a lot more.
  12. Improve the touch screen quality – how well it catches where the touch was, how fast it responds, and so forth.

It really does feel like we’re in the First Generation of touchscreen devices when it comes to reading.

Some of the best uses of touch are being implemented in iPhone reading apps. Nook Color has done a pretty good job too. Sony Reader makes a royal mess. iPad reading apps make decent use of touch.

It gives Amazon an opportunity – when it releases a touch Kindle, it can take the best of what’s been done so far.

What about Multi-Touch?

Reading Apps, for the most part, don’t really use Multi-touch.

  1. Imagine if you could touch with one finger where you wanted your highlight to start, and touch with your other finger the ending point.
  2. Another good use would be for editing highlights, and for moving notes around.
  3. One multi-touch gesture that’s already been implemented well is using pinch and zoom for changing text size.
  4. We could use multi-touch to do quick screen orientation changes – for when the auto-orientation is turned off.
  5. For search results, multi-touch would allow choosing of more than one search result. It would also allow for traversing search results in interesting ways.

Will have to think more about this. Hardly anyone is using multi-touch capabilities in reading devices. There might be some really useful things that can be done.

It really does feel like eReader makers don’t really realize all the things they can do with their touch screens. The company that figures it out first will have a big advantage. Of course, given that iPhone and iPad allow reading apps, there’s a good chance they’ll be the first ones to get reading apps that use touch in really great new ways.

Kindle 4 can improve on Kindle 3 via optical touch

Mr. Bezos was talking about the Kindle 3 on the Charlie Rose show and mentioned that having a touch layer disrupts readability because it adds glare and reflects objects.

However, there is an easy solution for adding touch without disrupting readability that Amazon should consider for Kindle 4.

IR sensors can be used to give Kindle 4 touch without disrupting readability

My PC is an HP TouchSmart (it’s got a multi-touch capable monitor) and it uses IR sensors in the frame around the screen. It’s just like the red infra-red security beams they show in movies that involve stealing diamonds in form-fitting clothes. You break one of the beams and it registers a touch.

There isn’t any physical touch layer to disrupt reading. The IR sensors would be around the frame/border of the eInk screen and wouldn’t get in the way.

This is how the HP TouchSmart’s screen works -

  1. There are infra-red sensors around the frame of the screen.  
  2. When your finger is about half a centimeter away it triggers the sensors.
  3. You don’t have to actually touch the screen. Just tested this multiple times. Plus it works with a pen or a finger.
  4. An x coordinate and a y coordinate are calculated corresponding to your touch (or touches). There must be some algorithm to approximate what point on the screen your touch was intended for. Since there are a lot of beams disrupted and we know the coordinate each represents we can approximate the exact point you intended to touch with your finger.
  5. The IR sensors convey this information to the PC and it indicates a touch.

You basically get a multi-touch capable screen without having to add any physical layers to the screen.

We can also add algorithms that ignore your palm or hand resting on the screen. That would let the IR sensors capture handwriting and the Kindle 4 could be used as a Notepad. 

We could easily place IR sensors along the edges of the eInk screen. Checking out my Kindle 2 and the eInk screen is already slightly recessed and there probably is enough space to fit in IR sensors.

Could Kindle 4 handle optical touch?

We know the reason Kindle 3 isn’t using touch is because of readability. However, are there other considerations?

  1. Battery Life Issues – This may or may not be an issue. If it is an issue the solution to this would be to use a proximity sensor – turn on the IR sensors only when a user’s hand comes near the screen. 
  2. The Touch sensing would probably not be as good – There’s no denying the touch would probably not be as good as it would with an actual physical layer. However, optical touch is still much better than zero touch.
  3. Perhaps it is a distraction – Well, Touch adds to usability by making things easier. It’s not really distracting from reading unless you specifically make an effort to create touch based apps that are a distraction from reading.
  4. The cost – Not sure of this since don’t really have any information on the cost of these IR sensor powered touch screens.
  5. Weight and Fragility – Would it be easy to break the IR sensors? Would they add a lot of weight? The answer is probably no and no.

We basically get to add a killer feature (even though it isn’t strictly required for reading it is a killer feature) and we get to do it without compromising on the quality of reading. It’s definitely a feature Amazon should consider for Kindle 4.

Optical Touch is easier than a lot of the alternatives

We’ve seen Amazon explore a lot of interesting ideas for letting users interact with the Kindle – Kindle Electronic Pen, Kindle Gesture Recognition, Multi-touch technology from TouchCo.

Each of these have specific drawbacks – An electronic pen would be an entire new purchase and people would keep losing it, Gesture Recognition sounds a bit complicated, and TouchCo’s technology probably requires a physical touch layer. Plus all of these haven’t yet been implemented. Two are patents and one (TouchCo) is in development mode.

With IR sensor based optical touch you have lots of companies implementing it and it’s a proven technology – HP has been selling TouchSmart computers for close to 1.75 years.

Whatever objections there might be to using optical touch in Kindle 4 there’s one very strong argument for incorporating it.

Qualcomm is already doing it with Mirasol

Qualcomm has a video of Mirasol color eInk screens at SID 2010 and it’s claiming a mirasol display with Optical Touch (it’s at 00:40 in the video) -

mirasol shows two 5.7″ XGA displays

1. mirasol Display with Capacitive Touch
2. mirasol Display with Optical Touch

If Mirasol can do it there’s no reason Amazon can’t introduce it as a killer feature in Kindle 4 or in Kindle DX 3.

Will Amazon actually add optical touch to Kindle 4?

That question has an easy answer if you believe Kindle 4 is going to use Mirasol screens. In that case one out of the two touch technologies Mirasol is showing off will probably make it into the Kindle 4.

Going with Qualcomm and its optical touch screen would deliver four key features in one go – A color screen, video support, super fast page refresh speed, and touch. With the optical touch screen there’s no loss in readability since there is no physical touch layer to cause harm.

Basically, if Amazon incorporates the Qualcomm Mirasol screen with optical touch in Kindle 4 we’ll probably get a release that outshines even the current Kindle 3 release. Chances are that it’ll be at a higher price point and it makes you wonder if there’s place for a new member in the Kindle family – Kindle Pro or perhaps Kindle Color.

In case Amazon doesn’t go with Qualcomm Mirasol it should still consider adding optical touch technology. Kindle 3 is a very impressive release and Amazon is going to have to add some solid improvements in Kindle 4 to make sure it measures up. Adding optical touch gives you touch capability without hurting readability and its definitely worth considering for Kindle 4.

eReaders and the great touchscreen myth

Let’s start with some cases where a touchscreen does make a lot of sense -

  1. For a small device like a phone where you can hold the device and also touch the entire touchscreen at the same time.
  2. For experiences that translate well to touchscreens like air hockey or jigsaw puzzles or moving things and rearranging things.
  3. For people who are very touch-oriented. Basically, kinesthetics who think of the world primarily in terms of ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ – people who want to feel things for themselves, people who like to physically handle objects rather than view them or hear them.  

There are also lots of other cases where touchscreens make sense.

Those are all valid uses – However, there is a myth that touchscreens need to replace everything. Which is what this post will address.

There are lots of things for which a touchscreen is completely unnecessary

This will probably come as a shock to people smitten by the concept of touchscreens – There are lots of devices for which a touchscreen makes zero sense.

Let’s consider a few examples (we’ll leave out painfully obvious examples like theater screens) -

  1. Cameras. You take pictures and you change settings. Buttons work just fine.
  2. Entering Text. A keyboard beats a touchscreen any day.
  3. Using a computer. You can get by pretty easily with a keyboard and mouse.
  4. Reading an ebook. The things you’re doing i.e. turning pages, marking sections, thumbing through the pages – don’t really need a touchscreen. Buttons or a keyboard work just fine.
  5. The TV. You don’t really need a touchscreen for the TV.

In some cases it actually hurts to have a touchscreen – replacing a computer’s physical keyboard with a touchscreen keyboard is a great example.

Just because an idea is cool or innovative doesn’t mean it’s optimal

Am typing this on an HP Touchsmart – the selling point is the big touchscreen. Which never gets used.

There are things like flipping through photos using your hands that are cool. However, the effort of raising your hand and touching the screen is too much – the right key on the keyboard and the mouse are much, much easier.

It’s the same if you’re reading a book on the iPad. It’s cool to be able to flip pages in animation – However, you’re reading a book. A button would work just as well. Highlighting is pretty awkward too.

We’re in the midst of this illusion that just because touchscreens are a cool, innovative new technology we should put them into everything. Well, for a lot of devices they just don’t make sense.

The Mouse and Keyboard as a layer of abstraction

The keyboard and mouse provide a few key things -

  1. The mouse provides an easy way to move anywhere on the screen without having to go to the physical screen. It’s a layer of abstraction with the mouse pad being the virtual screen.
  2. The keyboard provides easy text entry and lots of commands and lets us enter text and commands without impeding the view on the screen. It’s ‘extra space’ for entering commands and text.
  3. The keyboard and mouse together let us manipulate the screen without having to touch it or clutter it or hide it.

A touchscreen completely ignores this. A touchscreen assumes that the keyboard and mouse are relics of an age when we couldn’t make the screen touchable. The truth is that the screen is a completely separate entity from the keyboard and mouse. There are completely different functions fulfilled by each.

Just because we can roll the keyboard and mouse into the screen doesn’t mean we should.  

It doesn’t matter how cool a touchscreen is – If it’s slower or less convenient than the keyboard and mouse then there’s a very real price to pay for the coolness.

The Touchscreen is inferior to the keyboard and mouse in what they do

More heresy for the ears of touchscreen devotees.

The mouse lets you jump to any spot on the screen quickly and easily. It then lets you choose between different actions – left click to highlight, double-click to select, right-click for menu, middle button for scrolling. The key is that a tiny movement with the mouse gets translated into a giant move on the screen. The key is that it’s very easy to do different things once you reach your destination point.

The touchscreen does not provide this reduction of effort. You have to actually touch the screen. You have to move exactly as much as the size of the movement on the screen. You also have to add in steps since there is just one ‘touch’.

You do add in actions like pinch and zoom and various combinations of touches – However, mouse buttons provide that too and there’s a limit to our fingers and the possible combinations.

The keyboard provides easy and quick and powerful text entry. It allows for typing on a flat comfortable surface and it allows this without blocking the screen. It also allows us to place the monitor at the height and angle most comfortable for us while typing with the keyboard at the level and on the surface most convenient.

It separates the entry of text and use of various commands from the screen on which text is displayed and the screen which is manipulated by these commands.

The touchscreen is woefully inadequate as a keyboard replacement. The on-screen keyboard is slower to use, it hides part of the screen, and it’s an ergonomic nightmare. All the ‘put it on your lap to type and bend your neck to view the screen’ is going to have non-trivial consequences.

We’ll eventually reach the point where we use Touchscreens only when they make sense

The iPhone is in many ways a red herring. The screen is very small so you can use it while holding it in one hand. You can easily reach any part of the screen. Most of the functionality doesn’t use a keyboard. It was the first time we had a good, working touchscreen used in a phone.

It basically was a really good device that used a touchscreen very well and in a setting where touchscreens made a lot of sense.

It doesn’t mean that every single device should get a touchscreen. Perhaps most importantly it doesn’t mean that our computers should be touchscreen devices and it doesn’t mean our eReaders should have touchscreens.

Assigning a value to the ‘coolness’ of touch

Touch is a selling point. It’s cool. It’s innovative. It’s new technology and it imbues the user with magical properties that the Gods themselves envy (well, perhaps not that last part).

In terms of actual practical benefits there are probably three categories of devices -

  1. Devices like the Phone where certain factors like the small screen size make it a good choice. 
  2. Devices like eReaders where replacing the keyboard with a touchscreen may do more harm than good. Basically, devices for which a touchscreen isn’t exactly a killer feature – in fact it’s a non-factor except for marketing.
  3. Devices like TVs and remotes where a touchscreen would just be a gimmick. Where there is no way to pretend that a touchscreen adds value.

For the second and third category of devices the ‘coolness’ and ‘newness’ of touch means that it has some non-trivial value to users. It probably falls under the category of features that help a product be more appealing and sell but may not necessarily make it better.

So let’s assign it a value.

  1. For devices where it makes sense it’s a killer feature. 
  2. For devices where it brings benefits and disadvantages it’s basically worthless except as a marketing feature. It’ll work for the first few years and then people will figure it out.  
  3. For devices where it is a gimmick it’ll remain a gimmick.  

eReaders fall into the second category. Touchscreens will help give touchscreen eReaders an edge until people figure out it adds very little to the actual reading experience.

While it will help sell more eReaders for the next year or two an excessive focus on touchscreen eReaders does have a significant downside – the opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost of an excessive focus on Touch for eReaders

At any given time there are multiple technologies competing for attention and market experimentation. Take the Kindle and the various directions Amazon can take it in -

  1. Adding color to the Kindle’s screen. 
  2. Making the screen a touchscreen.  
  3. Making the screen have much more clarity and better contrast and refresh faster.
  4. Support for video and animation.
  5. Improving the response speed and how fast everything happens. 

If Amazon were to focus 80% of their energy on adding a touchscreen they’d also be taking 80% of their focus away from the other areas. Realistically, there are probably 2 main areas Amazon could focus on – So a focus on touch would mean 3 out of the 4 remaining areas get ignored.

Focusing on touchscreens may do more damage than good.

If we’re talking about devices where Touch is nothing more than a selling point (or isn’t even a selling point) then focusing on Touch means you miss out on an actually valuable feature. A feature that may be very marketable in addition to being very valuable.

Touchscreens are beginning to look like a dead-end for eReaders

How often do you actually use that touchscreen when you’re reading a book. On the Nook it’s an annoyance. On the Sony Touch Edition it’s OK and not a killer feature. On the iPad it’s OK but not a killer feature.

When it comes to reading, a touchscreen just isn’t as valuable as something boring like screen contrast or readability in sunlight.

Here are some actual killer features – Text to Speech, eInk, wireless downloads in 60 seconds, great screen contrast.

Here are some features that might be killer features for certain people – Color screens (for diagrams and illustrations), Dictionary feature, Search, carrying thousands of books.

Where do touchscreens fit in? Is touch a killer feature or just a distraction?

Do you think touchscreens make sense for eReaders? Does your ideal Kindle come with a touchscreen?

Touch Kindle? Multi touch tech acquired by Amazon

A Touch Kindle might be arriving in 2010 or 2011.

The biggest clue? Amazon just acquired a tiny New York based multi touch company.

NY Times broke the news and the Bits Blog just happens to have video and photographs of the technology. Nick Bilton of Bits Blog had interviewed the company, Touchco, in January.

Touch Kindle – Touchco and their Multi Touch Technology  

Touchco is a company formed to commercialize IFSR technology.

  1. IFSR stands for Interpolating Force-Sensitive Resistance. These are really advanced sensors.
  2. IFSRs were developed at New York University’s Media Research Lab by Ilya Rosenberg and Prof. Ken Perlin.
  3. IFSRs can detect any object – not just a finger. Would work great with the Kindle Electronic Pen ;) .
  4. IFSR technology can determine the amount of pressure being applied at various points.
  5. It uses less power than capacitive sensors.
  6. It is much cheaper to produce.
  7. It’s completely flexible.
  8. It has a really elegant design behind it – There are horizontal and vertical wires and the amount of current at an intersection varies based on how close the touch is (and perhaps the pressure).

In a nutshell – Amazon just acquired technology that might be the best multi-touch technology around.

The fact that IFSR can catch both finger touches and a pen or stylus is critical. It allows Amazon to design a Kindle Touch version that captures handwriting via pens (perhaps the Kindle Electronic Pen – the one with the inbuilt camera and whispernet) and also page turns and other finger touches.

Touchco Details still available

While most of the search engines’ caches have been updated to show nothing you can still get the inside scoop – Here’s a cached page explaining the technology that might soon be in Kindles.

Some of the interesting technical specifications -

  • Thickness: 0.01″ (0.25 mm)
  • Speed: 60 Hz to 500 Hz
  • Resolution: 100 dpi* (254 µm)
  • Pressure Range: 5 g – 5 kg**
  • Production Cost: $10/sq. ft. in high volume
  • The 100 dpi resolution can be improved by using finer wire spacing.

    Touch Kindle – When? How? and the iPad Angle

    Pretty much every article on the acquisition paints this as Amazon’s move to take on the iPad and they’re right.

    This acquisition has ‘We’re ready to fight the iPad’ written all over it.

    When will the technology be integrated in the Kindle?

    Probably sometime in 2010 or 2011.

    There’s this really interesting snippet from the Bits Blog’s original coverage of Touchco (do check out how the sensor can capture the variation in pressure levels of a pencil drawing) -

    Mr. Perlin believes you will see a new range of multitouch e-readers in the coming year …

    Really?

    That could mean a multi touch Kindle is slated for 2010 – Even if it gets delayed we might see a touch kindle by early to mid 2011.

    It’s entirely possible that Amazon had the technology already lined up for use and decided to buy the company to prevent its competitors from getting it. Or perhaps after the iPad was released Amazon looked around and found Touchco.

    TouchCo worked on a digital sketchbook with Disney

    A multi touch Kindle with handwriting support becomes a definite possibility when you consider Touchco’s Disney project -

    Touchco has also been working closely with Disney animators to create a true digital sketchbook replacement, utilizing extremely sensitive pressure sensors to determine pencil thickness or even use of an eraser.

    The software behind the sensors can easily differentiate between the palm of a hand, a brush or a pencil.

    A screen that can differentiate between your palm, your fingers, your brush and your pencil – that screams multi touch Kindle with handwriting support.

    Is Amazon building a multi-touch Kindle or a multi-purpose Kindle?

    This acquisition brings up an important question – What exactly are Amazon’s plans for this amazing new multi touch technology?

    1. Perhaps Amazon is simply adding a great multi-touch screen to the Kindle which doesn’t cause glare and does make the Kindle easier to use.
    2. Perhaps Amazon is creating a new dual-purpose Kindle that supports reading and writing. 
    3. Perhaps Amazon will introduce an entirely new device that will be multi-purpose.

    I doubt Amazon will turn the Kindle into a multi-purpose device. This acquisition probably has to do with making the Kindle a much better eReader and possibly an eWriter.

    Random Thoughts

    Here are some thoughts -

    1. It really does seem to be a great technology. 
    2. What happens to the sketchbook project with Disney? It’d be perfect for a Kindle Journal feature. 
    3. It’s just a six person company – Amazon might have saved itself a few hundred millions dollars by acquiring it early.
    4. Would this work well with eInk? It’s supposed to be built to work with LCDs.
    5. It’s great to see Amazon make a solid technology move to improve the Kindle.
    6. Multi-touch certainly improves the prospect for Kindle Apps – imagine a 3D touch based folders app.
    7. Why would the Touchco guy be talking about an eReader arriving in 2010?
    8. How soon will eReaders with this technology arrive?
    9. Could Amazon be planning a Nook style dual screen design or perhaps one like the Entourage Edge?

    There are a lot of unanswered questions and that’s certainly the way Amazon likes to do things. 

    Hoping for an excellent Multi Touch Kindle

    It’s about time we got some huge jumps in eReader technology.

    • Color is certainly something to look forward to.
    • Kindle Apps are going to be great and hopefully will be followed by apps for other eReaders.
    • A Multi-Touch screen that can distinguish a palm from a finger and also work with a pen or stylus is certainly exciting.

    2010 is turning out to be quite the year.

    By buying up Touchco Amazon has gotten itself a significant competitive advantage over other eReaders – The only question left is how soon they’ll bring a Kindle with this technology to market.

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