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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.

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