IDTechEx has just received news that Polymer Vision, the pioneer for rollable displays for mobile devices and developer of the Readius electronic reader has gone bankrupt.
Polymer Vision's electronic reader was ready to go into production but the company had stuggled to put the finances in place due to economic pressures along with a market dominated mostly by the Amazon Kindles and the Sony Readers. Some reports suggest that the screen may have been too small and the device was more like an iPhone without the advantages of a color screen and backlight.
In an interview earlier this year CEO Karl McGoldrick said, "There are many people making e-book readers but just one or two dominate the market. So anyone moving into the space will have a lot of difficulty and we understand that." Whilst Amazon say they can't keep up with demand for the Kindle DX which has sold out for the second time in a month and now has a waiting period of 4-6 weeks.
IDTechEx draws the following conclusions. Polymer Vision initially used a relatively expensive oligomer transistor deposited on silicon and transfer printed onto plastic film in the hope of getting to market quickly. This may have been misguided. Those wishing to enter the e-reader and allied markets must leapfrog by having flexible displays, which Polymer Vision had, but probably also colour, which Polymer Vision did not have.
Samsung has been promising colour e-readers in advertisements over the last year. It will take very powerful uniques to beat Sony and Amazon. Combining e-reader and mobile phone may be viable. It would certainly help with content and functionality but the e-Ink displays on mobile phones have not succeeded because, although users dearly want readability in sunshine, they will not surrender video and colour.
e-reader manufacturer Prime View International now owns the front plane maker e-Ink. Putative manufacturers of e-readers and e-reader phones will therefore be closely watching to see whether the more independent SiPix or Bridgestone come up with colour flexible electrophoretic front planes they can use or bistable printed colour LCDs being developed by six organisations prove viable.
Like the quest for OLED television, high volume consumer electronics devices with flexible displays involves a battle of the giants with deep pockets and content is key.
New additions to the market include the COOL-ER from new start up company Interead which will be available in the UK and US later this month. Taiwanese company IAC showed its Prodigy e-book reader at Computex 2009. They expect to start shipping the device in Taiwan later this year. Bookeen's e-reader Cybook is currently out of stock - with no details on their website about when it will be available.