E-Ink—the most popular type of electronic paper as well as the name of the company that manufactures it for devices including the Kindle—has been bought by its primary business partner. The move is aimed at speeding the development of color e-paper.
E-ink makes the displays for Amazon's Kindle, Sony's E-Reader, and Plastic Logic's electronic books, but a different company—Prime View International (PVI)—makes the rest of the electronic guts and assembles them into one unit. Now PVI, a Taiwanese company, has bought-up E-ink for the princely sum of $215 million.
The buy-out hands ownership of the 100-odd patents E-ink holds for electrophoretic technology over to PVI. But the impetus for the move was specifically noted by E-ink's vice President Sriram Peruvemba as a way to simplify how the two companies work together. And it will give E-ink the cash and manpower to push development of color electronic paper displays.
Kindles are limited to black and white or grayscale imagery today. Fujitsu has rushed ahead with its color Flepia e-ink technology, and that's also an Achilles heel for the device—it costs nearly three times as much as the Kindle. When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was cornered last week about when the Kindle would get a color display, he responded by saying a color Kindle was "multiple years" away.
But the a newly-restructured E-Ink and PVI will accelerate the pace of development, and Peruvemba pointed to the end of 2010 for when mass production will begin. That means a color Kindle may be just 18 months or so in the future.