Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Samsung Ditches Its E-paper Tech Efforts, but Retains E-publishing Plans

Samsung e-paper

Need any evidence that the dedicated e-reader is destined to become a mere niche-appeal device? Here you go: Tech giant Samsung is ditching its clever e-paper business after years of clever successes and a ton of research into what may be the future for the technology.

Back in 2009 at CES Samsung teased its good-looking Kindle-challenging e-reader, the Papyrus, which used Samsung's own proprietary electronic ink system for the display. At CES this year it followed up with its "E6" device, with a rumored cost of $400. Samsung had been shaking the e-paper world since late in 2008 with numerous e-paper announcements, including revealing a color 14-inch flexible e-paper display as long ago as October 2008, which used carbon nanotube tech to achieve its sharp image quality.

Now it seems that revolutions in the e-reader market (namely that odd race-to-the-bottom in pricing over quality of service) combined with revolutions in the tablet PC market (which means the iPad, which can do a million more things than the Papyrus or E6 could) and pricing that neatly undercuts Samsung's planned price points has resulted in Samsung killing its e-paper research and development.

The Asian-based tech giant is keeping its hand in the e-reader business though, and will concentrate instead on LCD-based systems—an LCD e-reader is reportedly due in 2011.

Like Plastic Logic's withdrawal of its innovative Que e-reader/organizer device, this is a sign that the single-use e-paper e-reader market has a limited lifespan. Samsung has poured much money into the field, and yet what now seems to have happened is that a business planning team at the top has done the math and worked out that a potential return in sales of the right size is never going to happen. This is because the emerging tablet/slate PC market will devour the e-reader one—though there is a prevailing opinion that e-paper devices are easier to read text from, the all-purpose uses an LCD-based tablet PC can be put to easily outweigh the benefits of e-paper.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

Add New Comment