An article by Christopher Mims on Quartz, “Amazon is working on displays that Apple and Samsung can’t match,” is claiming that … well … Amazon is working on displays that Apple and Samsung can’t match. His article buffs the credentials of Amazon as a technology innovator, as opposed to just a marketing and distribution dreadnought, and one focused particularly on displays. Amazon’s work around the E Ink substrate of its Paperwhite display, according to Mims, shows that Bezos’s behemoth is positioning itself to take the high ground in color tablet displays, by applying similar light guide principles as in the Paperwhite to full-color daylight-readable low-power fast-refresh screens, courtesy of its acquisition of Liquavista.
Liquavista’s electrowetting screen technology and Amazon’s light guide screen improvements could provide the mystic marriage that creates the next generation of displays, Mims speculates. And he puts this in the context of the continuing erosion of market share for dedicated ereaders by generic tablet devices. “If Amazon is first to market with this display technology—and given the current state of competing reflective color display technologies like Mirasol, it seems likely—Amazon could produce tablets with unique properties—like long battery life and amenability to being used outdoors and in natural light—which not even Apple and Samsung could match. That would sketch out a future in which Amazon licenses this technology or even sells panels directly to competitors that once trounced its e-readers with tablets.”
An outcome like that, if it happened, would definitely leave Amazon in a very different place relative to the proliferating generic Android device market. Of course, that shifting landscape is still all opportunity for Amazon, since every Android tablet is potentially a Kindle reader. And surely Asian manufacturers will be the first to try to leapfrog Amazon with similar displays of their own, with or without technology licensing agreements. Even so, a lasting or just temporary spot for Amazon as the innovation star would be quite something, with unknown consequences for the balance of power between itself, Apple and Google.
That would put the flurry around Amazon and other ereader manufacturers’ bid to evade U.S. FCC requirements on accessible ereaders for the disabled in a different light too. If Amazon does put screen technology of this type into production, it’s hard to imagine them not using it to refresh the Kindle lineup – and what happens to the distinction between generic tablets and ereaders then?