updated 01:40 pm EST, Mon November 8, 2010
Hanvon previews color E Ink reader for March
China's Hanvon today had the distinction of becoming the first company to support a color E Ink screen. The company said it would launch a 9.7-inch touchscreen device. The design has few details but should behave slightly more like a tablet, with a website in view in the initial NYT render and both 3G and Wi-Fi support. It reaches the Chinese market in March for an equivalent price of $440.
E Ink has taken advantage of a wave of interest in e-readers and has found its e-paper screens used in the most important readers in the US, including the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. Color screens have faced significant resistance, however as the process of putting a color filter over e-paper gives a very washed-out look and doesn't improve the slow performance of current technology, which bars significant animation and video.
The limitation has left many companies switching to LCDs and tablets instead to pursue color. Apple's decision to use LCD for the iPad was dictated by its intended role, but Barnes & Noble notably skipped over E Ink entirely for the Nook Color so that it could get interactive children's books and third-party apps. Amazon has been one of the few to fully defend the technology and said color Kindles were distant as it wanted to remain focused on the advantages of current grayscale e-readers.
Hanvon's decision may prove successful. Although it has tried to crack the tablet market with muted results, it controls 78 percent of the growing tablet market in its native China. The iPad costs the equivalent of $590, and while popular for tablets may struggle to get acceptance compared to e-readers as a whole.