Two months ago it was rumored that Samsung wants to sell its electrowetting display unit LiquaVista which they bought back in January 2011, and Amazon may turn out to be the buyer. Now Amazon confirmed the rumors and indeed bought LiquaVista from Samsung.
It makes sense that Amazon is seeking a color display technology for its Kindle e-readers. It may be that E Ink's colored displays are still disappointing Amazon and they need a display with a wider color gamut and better contrast.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung wants to sell its electrowetting display unit LiquaVista which they bought back in January 2011. They are currently in talks with Amazon, that will pay a sub-$100 million sum to Samsung for the unit. According to the report, a Samsung spokesperson admitted that the Liquavista acquisition "didn't meet its expectations".
I believe Amazon does want to bring new life into its Kindle e-reader line, and LiquaVista's display can enable color e-paper displays with a fast refresh rate compared to E Ink. On the other hand the technology is much less mature and I'm not sure if Amazon is the sort of company to actually succeed in commercializing such a technology. This one is going to be interesting to watch...
According to Samsung LCD Netherlands R&D Center (SNRC)’s Johan Feenstra, Samsung is set to start producing Electrowetting displays in 2013. The new panels will features color and fast refresh rates. According to Samsung, these new panels will be much more efficient than E Ink, too. Samsung is currently focusing on 9.7" prototypes.
Here's a chart provided by Samsung showing how much more efficient the new technology is compared to E Ink:
Update: We found two videos (of the color and low-frequency displays), see below
Samsung is showing new Electrowetting 6.2" display prototypes. They are showing 3 different displays - a color reflective one, a mono reflective one and a low frequency one. We don't have any technical information yet...
Back in January 2011 Samsung acquired Liquavista, electrowetting display pioneer. via Flickr. Here are a couple of videos showing the new displays:
Update: This is now official, Samsung issued a press release. We still do not know the financial details...
There are reports that Samsung has acquired Liquavista. It's not official, and we do not know the financial details, but it seems that Samsung is already listed as Liquavista's corporate parent at the Netherlands' chamber of commerce.
LiquaVista raised $9.5 million in early 2010, so this doesn't seem to be an "emergency sale" - and is probably good news for the company and the technology. We also know that Samsung stopped making E Ink panels in August 2010 - so perhaps they were already considering the move to Liquavista's electrowetting displays. Here's an interview we conducted with Liquavista's CTO back in March 2010.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati have demonstrated that regular paper can be a flexible host material for Electrowetting displays. These new displays can theoretically be almost as cheap as printing a normal magazine. They say that in 3-5 years this can actually be commercialized, but these estimates are always optimistic...
The researchers say that paper is the "perfect substrate" for Electrowetting displays: it's flexible and cheap, and shows the same performance as glass.