Featuring analysis from

  • DisplaySearch
  • Solarbuzz

New Displays Bask in the Sunlight

By Ross Rubin, Executive Director, Industry Analysis, The NPD Group

At the DisplaySearch USFPD conference, the sun-drenched beachfront of San Diego was an appropriate setting for my panel that included representatives from two companies working on energy-efficient displays that excel at outdoor readability.

Sri Peruvemba, VP of Marketing at E Ink, cited the accuracy of DisplaySearch forecasts for e-paper as he told a compelling story about the wide array of e-readers we’ve seen introduced since the debut of the Sony Reader, particularly outside the US.

During the Q&A session, one attendee acknowledged the potential for these products to enable “a library in your pocket” as transformative for developing nations. Sri also noted that the arrival of textbooks for e-readers is coming sooner rather than later, which are seen by many as the key to driving strong growth beyond leisure readers.

On the other hand, he was nonplussed about the iPad, falling back on the superior readability and battery life of e-paper. He also noted that the forthcoming Apple slate would be much heavier than a typical e-reader-a factor that consumers would feel as they tried to hold the device in one hand for extended sessions.

As noted in NPD’s A Look Into e-Readers: A Snapshot Report last year, consumers interested in e-readers want content such as newspapers and magazines. These publications’ need for color, interactive multimedia and video were cited as opportunities by Brian Gally, Senior Product Director for Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, which has developed the mirasol display.

While a mirasol device prototype I saw at the show was certainly impressive, what was even more impressive was the best-in-class battery life improvements the company claims we will see for these devices. These claims will be put to the test soon, as Qualcomm notes that we’ll see products using mirasol displays launch before the end of the year. For E Ink’s part, Sri countered that it would offer color e-paper products before the end of the year, and that it had video working in the labs.

In my questions following the presentations, panelists addressed how cash-strapped publishers would be able to afford investing in reinventing their magazines developing expensive video and multimedia assets, and how the greater content consumption demands would affect the free cellular access that has helped to enable the Kindle’s success.

There were no clear answers, but both men expressed great confidence that a wide array of display opportunities ranging from power-hungry high-volume handsets to large flexible digital signage would provide plenty of room to maneuver around the LCD juggernaut. Indeed, in their words, the future is so bright one will need a reflective display.