Image via Fujitsu
Electronic paper, or e-paper, is the technology behind devices like the Kindle, which can display information electronically while looking to the eye like paper. It uses less electricity, since it only needs power when the display changes, and it is easier on the eyes since it doesn't use backlighting. We were excited about the advancements in color e-paper technology for e-readers as they moved in to displaying magazines and newspapers, as well as illustrated books. And last week, Fujistu announced a breakthrough of better color e-paper with a higher contrast so that the images are more vibrant. But now, with the release of the iPad, is color e-paper too little too late for this market? Fujitsu let loose a newly-enhanced color e-paper that boasts "the world's highest-level color image quality." The contrast ratio is 7:1, which is three times higher than the company's previous version, and has boosted the re-write speed to just 0.7 seconds. For color e-paper, that's very fast.
E-paper is light weight, energy sipping (the reason why the Kindle can be used for two weeks before needing a recharge) and is super thin, all features ideal for use in e-readers. However, when we now have a device like the iPad that can not only display color images for reading magazines as well as play video and a vast amount of other capabilities, are color e-readers now just a one trick pony that no one will be interested in no matter how little power they consume? While at least one company working on color e-paper insists the iPad is not a killjoy, we have our questions about how limited the market for color e-paper might become.
Rather than use in electronic magazine and book readers, we're guessing color e-paper will be relegated to advertisement displays, and smaller devices like cell phones. With the work Fujitsu and other companies are doing, at least these will be beautiful. Meanwhile, we're wondering how more advanced devices like the iPad can minimize the energy consumption of their display screens as much as possible. So far, LED-backlit LCDs are where it's at, but perhaps OLED, or even PHOLED or OLET technology can come in handy soon.
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