Last summer, I wrote an article on the coming color E-Ink eReaders, and I predicted that they would be here in the first quarter of this year. It's time to take another look at the market, because it doesn't look like color E-Ink eReaders is going to make my forecast. What's wrong with those folks anyway?
What's wrong was the coming of the Apple IPad. The market has changed. No one ever thought that yet another tablet, the IPad, would have the revolutionary effect it has had on the market. The rise of the IPad, and the gradual increase in size of some eReader's has the two markets overlapping with each other. The difference between the tablet computer and the eReader is starting to merge into one market in the consumer's mind.
The tablet computer has started to replace both the laptop and the eReader. In a November survey, Price Grabber, as reported in USA Today, found that 79% of consumers would rather have a tablet then a laptop, and 72% said they thought that tablets would replace eReaders. Wow, all this in less than a year.
What factors are in play here. Certainly the size of the display is a small factor, but it's not the real reason. The real reason is that consumers want, and are use to, having color movies and video on their devices. Entertainment sites offering video over the Internet like Hula, Netflix, and You Tube have made video over the Internet a want in the consumer's mind. It's starting to be normal for Internet sites to have a video window showing some sort of entertainment, or advertising.
The eReader market between Barnes and Noble, and Amazon fighting the good fight, was under a lot of pressure to provide color eReaders, because of the IPad color tablet. Since color E-Ink technology was not quite ready yet, both companies came out with color LCD displays. Amazon with the Kindle Fire for $199 and Barnes and Noble with the Nook Color for $199, and the Nook Tablet for $249. The lead feature for these devices is access to movies. Amazon claims over 19 Million movies and TV shows available, and Barnes and Nobles claims movies and TV shows with access to Netflix.
Forgive me for my digression, but let's say you live 80 years, or 700,800 hours. Your average movie runs 2 hours, I know that's high, but let's be conservative. That means the most movies you could possibly watch in a lifetime given your watching 24 hours a day is 350,400 movies. OK, let's say you only watch 6 hours a day, or 87,600 movies. Who cares if I can have access to 19 Million movies? Let's get real folks, the most you could possible see in a lifetime is a mere 0.4% of all the media out there. Pretty unbelievable that there are that many movies in the world.
The eReader market is drying up. Why? Because who wants black and white, if you can get color, and who wants to just have a color eReader, when they can get a color eReader with movies. So now the choice is to buy a larger IPad2 for $499, a smaller Nook Tablet that fits into your pocket for $249, or a smaller color eReader for $199. The capabilities of the tablet and eReader are gradually merging to become the tablet computer, which also is an eReader.
But wait a minute folks, what happen to those features that made the eReader take off, that made people want an eReader over a computer? Certainly size and weight were in the eReader's favor, but the big feature was the ability to read your eReader at the beach in direct sunlight, and the fact that reading a book on the eReader was easier on the eyes than that bright backlit LCD display.
Are these valid? I reckon I'm on a computer about 16 hours a day. That means I'm staring at an LCD display 16 hours a day. I don't often think about eye strain. It's like I don't have a choice, I want to look at the computer display. Now I admit I do take measures to ease the bright white, glaring, background. For example, the editor I'm writing this article with, and all my editors, have a blue-black background with lime font color. That stops that bright white background glaring at me all day. Is eye strain now a non-factor? I think so. I can adjust my color displays for my desired colors and brightness level.
What's wrong with color E-Ink? Simple, no video, and until video is available color E-Ink will never be bigger than the LCD display. Yes, color E-Ink will be easier on the eyes, and yes, you'll be able to read color E-Ink in direct sunlight, which is a problem for LCD displays, but without the video, it will not be the consumer's favorite display.
The question is when will color E-Ink be able to show movies? At this time, the color E-Ink displays are not quite ready to refresh their screens fast enough to show video.
There are three main competitors trying to become the first with Color E-Ink that can show movies. E Ink the company which makes the current Kindle black and white display makes a Triton color display. Qualcomm's Mirasol technology all ready is in some eReaders, and Samsung's Liquavista technology is in some mobile devices. These companies are working hard at overcoming the video problem along with a slew of lesser companies working on related technology.
There is a huge market for color E-Ink displays, and if color E-Ink with movies happens, some company is going to make a lot of money. The company that's first to market, or the company with significant better image quality, that can view movies with a color E-Ink display will replace all of the LCD displays on the market. Why? Two reasons, back to the origin of the eReader market, the display will be easily viewed in sunlight, something that is not available with LCD technology, but more important, color E-Ink displays will use considerably less power than the LCD displays. Instead of 10 hours on your tablet's battery, you'll get a month with color E-Ink displays, a big plus. That alone will make people switch to the devices with the newer displays.
We're not quite in a Beta versus VHS battle, because both of those formats matured at the same time and released a lot of product before the battle was won, nor are we in a Blu-ray vs HD DVD battle, which was solved by the HD DVD supporters giving up. I think this is different, this is new technology trying to unseat entrenched technology. Not quite a battle yet, but the stage is set, it's certainly going to be entertaining. Any one for some popcorn?