Amazon fingers touch tech firm
Kindle goes to the feelies?
Amazon is reportedly buying a company specialising in touch technologies, and recruiting hard to keep the Kindle at the front of the shelf.
Touchco is a New York startup spun out of New York University to exploit "interpolating force-sensitive resistance" to create cheap multi-touch surfaces, which, according to the New York Times, has prompted Amazon to snap up the six-man company.
It's not just technology that Amazon is throwing at the Kindle though, Mary-Jo Foley reports that the company has also recruited Mike Nash from Microsoft, a man with experience of building development ecosystems, into the Kindle team.
Despite getting bigger, and going international, the Kindle is looking decidedly low-tech these days. Touch sensitivity is pretty-much standard for an eReader, and the Kindle's hardware keyboard never looked right on a book.
Multitouch makes a soft keyboard a lot easier to use, so that would be a good start if Amazon can integrate the technology into a next-generation Kindle. Still, eReaders are poised at a cross-roads right now so don't expect anything to happen soon.
Some of the competition have squeezed in a second screen in the hope of putting a little colour into their e-ink-based products, but colour e-ink is still some way off. Apple's iPad will, no-doubt, attract a lot of interest but it remains to be seen if users will really be happy reading books on a backlit screen, and Amazon might do well to see what iPads get used for with a view to emulating the more-popular applications.
If iPad users do decide e-ink is unnecessary for reading books then we can expect to see everyone dropping the technology pretty quickly, so Amazon will want to be ready for that eventuality too. ®
dropping the technology pretty quickly
'If iPad users do decide e-ink is unnecessary for reading books then we can expect to see everyone dropping the technology pretty quickly'
Contrary to what some people believe, the world doesn't actually revolve around Apple. If people did not have a problem reading from TFT/OLED displays for long periods, e-paper technologies would not have got as far as they already have.
Various manufacturers have been developing colour e-paper displays and several are almost ready for prime-time, so they're not far off. With the number of organisations jumping on the band wagon, this class of technology is clearly not disappearing any time soon.
The same can't be said for tablet computers. It seems to me, what with Steve Job's unjustified and nonsensical netbook bashing, that actually Apple are scraping the barrel for a way to justify the iPad's existence. The technologies needed to develop a tablet computer or TFT e-reader have been around for years now. They'd have taken off ages ago if anyone had really wanted/needed them.
It's all moot now
1998 the first ebook reader came to market. They've had 12 years to corner the market, to create the market, but a decade later here comes a multi function device that lets you read ebooks (not as good as a reader), though magazines and newspapers in full colour, surf the web (not as good as a laptop), listen to music, watch video and run various apps, at a price not much costlier than the ereader.
I think it's a little to late - I'd have brought an ereader years ago for £75, but my personal price/value perception of these things is that is the upper ceiling on their worth.