The Readius was one of those impossibly cool gadgets which, in spite of enthusiastic support from tech bloggers such as myself, was never quite able to make the leap from concept to production model. And now thanks to its parent company deciding to turn off the lights at the device developer Polymer Vision, it never will.+Plastic Electronics reported last week that Wistron, the Taiwanese manufacturer which bought a bankrupt Polymer Vision in 2009, is shutting it down. This story has been confirmed by the former CTO of Polymer Vision, Edzer Huitema, though he was not able to provide further details.
Polymer Vision was originally launched by Phillips Electronics in 2004, and in 2007 it was spun off from the Philips Technology Incubator. PV received a €21 million capital injection from Luxembourg based Technology Capital Group, and set out to make a smartphone with a 5″ foldable E-ink screen.
This was the pre-Kindle, pre-iPhone era, so you can imagine how novel the idea was. Few smartphones had a screen larger than 3″or so, so a small device which unfolded to reveal a large screen had an instant appeal to many gadget nuts.
At least, there used to be a compromise. Now that everyone seems comfortable with carrying around phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note with its 5.5″ screen, there is little reason to develop a foldable E-ink screen.
And what with all the 6″ ereaders which now use a high-resolution
flexible E-ink screen on cheap and pocketable devices, PV’s research is both antiquated likely too expensive to manufacture.
Polymer Vision had planned to release the Readius in 2008, and had even gotten to the point of signing up Telecom Italia as a customer and reportedly making an initial production run of 100,000 units. Tanother production run was planned for 2009, but it was canceled when PV was unable to raise another round of financing.
It seems that the 2009 financing failed due to one of the investor’s involvement money laundering or Ponzi scheme. In any case Wistron bought PV out of receivership for €13 million.
Wistron is a major Chinese OEMs (along with quanta and Foxconn), and while their brands aren’t on many products you have likely used a device they made for another company, Kobo, for example, paid Wistron to make the Kobo Touch and Kobo Vox (and probably all their other gadgets).
They had been continuing to fund research for the past 3 years and so far as I know they did intend to release a new Readius-like device. But the last I heard about that was in May of 2011, when PV teased us with a product render showing the device they wanted to build.
One of my contacts used to have fairly good ties to PV, and I’m told they have not shown off any physical prototypes, though they have made at least a couple prototypes for each of the concept images they have released.