Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad Killer

WARNING!!! THE FOLLOWING POST IS OF A TOTALLY GEEKISH NATURE AND SHOULD NOT BE READ BY PEOPLE OF A TECHNOPHOBIC DISPOSITION.

Those of you that know me will have by now understood that I am a bit of a techie, quite happy to take things apart, understand how they work and fix them if they are broken.
Well I have always had an interest in the replacement of paper printed media since I got the chance to play around with e-ink some eight or nine years ago. So I was happy to see that the inventors had been turning it into a commercial product, the latest offering being under the guise of the Que from Plastic Logic.

Pretty darn good, sunlight readable, very low power consumption, ultra portable and capable of storing thousands of documents. My only criticism is that even after all this time, the promise of a colour version has still not materialized. IMHO a colour e-reader (preferably but not necessarily, capable of video support) could be the catalyst for society to move away from printed media in the same way (Dare I say it) that the printing press brought literature to the masses.
A sad day in many ways, but an exciting one none the less.

So when Apple announced that it was launching the iPad, I thought, “Could this be it????”
Sadly the answer was a resounding “No!”
For all it’s bells and whistle, the apps, the cool functions and the hype, it had a flaw, a fundamental one at that……,the power hungry, sunlight Unreadable and eye straining lcd screen.



Thanks, but no thanks Apple, I’ll stick with the Macbook Air and printed books (Which I absolutely and always will Love).

But all this flurry of activity with tablet computers and e-readers left me wondering, “Who would solve the big problem by finding a replacement for the LCD screen for mobile devices (The iPad isn’t alone, just try using Google Nexus One in the sunlight (Sorry for your loss Sythe) or any other smart phone for that matter).

Well it might be here sooner rather than later, thanks to some Dutch guys and a company called Liquavista, who have taken a century old principle called electro wetting and reinvented it for the digital generation.
Essentially, it involves coloured oils that react to a small electrical charge, set out in individual pixels very much like the existing lcd screen technology. More importantly though, (Drum roll please!) it harnesses rather than fights sunlight. External light passes through the oil and is then reflected back at the person reading the screen (in low light it utilizes a traditional backlight), the brighter the sunlight, the more vivid the screen becomes. Voila!
And if that wasn’t enough, a key benefit over competing technologies such as mirasol, is that because it is so similar to lcd in manufacture, existing lcd factories would only need to be adapted (instead of being built from scratch) in order to start manufacturing the displays!

Could this be the perfect sunlight readable display for our mobile gadgets? Liquavista hope to have them in devices and on sale by mid 2011, and are already working with Liquid Plastic to produce a colour e-reader.

I just wonder how long it will take the likes of Apple (or one of their competitors) to finally dump the lcd screen and have an iPad worthy of the Apple name.

For all of you nay sayers out there, just take a look at what Sports Illustrated dreamt up for the iPad and tell me, can your book or magazine do this????

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