Sony to Launch 13.3″ E-ink Writing Slate in Japan (Photos)

sony large screen ereaderSony has been researching flexible E-ink screens for the past several years, and today we finally learned why. They've just unveiled a behemoth of a writing slate, and they plan to bring it to market this year.

Sony hasn't revealed all the details on this unnamed ereader, but I do know that it is a prototype. It's equipped with a flexible A4 sized screen just like the ones that Sony teased in years past (more details at the end of the post). The screen measures 13.3", and has a resolution of 1600x1200. The writing slate also comes with 4GB of storage, a microSD card slot, Wifi, and a 3 week battery life.

This is going to be strictly a writing tablet, and we can tell that from the touchscreen.  The press release describes it as an electromagnetic induction panel, and assuming that my technical source is correct,  this touchscreen is not fingertip friendly. It will only work with the included pen, and that means that most stylus(es) are out as well.

Update: But apparently this tablet also has a second touchscreen component, which in the original Japanese is described as optical. That sounds like it could be the IR touchscreen from Neonode. Cool. That means that users will be able to type on the screen.

sony large screen ereader

I suppose that is not such a bad idea given that users will rest their hand on the screen while writing, but it is a little disappointing that we won't be able to type on the screen or conveniently browse the web.

According to the press release, the supported file formats include PDF, PDF, and more PDF. No, your eyes do not deceive you; this slate does not support Epub or any other  format. It's not clear why Sony chose to limit the support so, but this writing slate doesn't even support basic office formats like Word, powerpoint, or excel (nor their open source equivalents).

That's going to limit the usefulness of this slate, and given that it will likely have a high price when it ships the lack of support could kill user demand.

This slate is going to go through field trials at several Japanese universities later this year. Sony expects to release it commercially by the end of the 2013 fiscal year. That would seem to be around the beginning of May 2014 (based on recent press reports).

The Screen

I have to say that I was surprised to see the news today. Sony has been teasing us with a flexible E-ink screen for at least 3 years now,and I never expected to actually see a prototype much less one that is going to go into field trials.

Sony has shown off early prototypes of the 13.3" screen several times, and they even teased us with a flexible color E-ink screen at one point:

sony-sid[1]

They've never explained why they were working on the screen, and in fact Sony's research confused many in the screen tech industry. They could not see a reason why Sony continued to sink money into the project, but more importantly it seemed that Sony didn't know why they were investing in the research.

I guess that impression was wrong.

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17 thoughts on “Sony to Launch 13.3″ E-ink Writing Slate in Japan (Photos)

  1. I really like the screen size. This would be an improvement over my Kindle DX for reading PDFs. My uses would not include writing on PDFs although I can sympathize with the note takers and artists in the world. I hope reading is possible in addition to writing.

    Is the flexible display panel sensative to a dropped cigarette ember or hot ash? I worry these plastic panels would melt and be destroyed too easily.

  2. A simple math tells us that the size of the screen is 7.98 x 10.64″. In milimeters it is 202.7 x 270mm – a little bit smaller than A4 size 210 x 297mm. The resolution is 150dpi.
    If you really can load your pdf, this little device could be made to work as an e-ink reader, especially if it will be able to crop margins from pdf files.

  3. From the description, this device is intended to replace a pad of paper and a pen. It might be of interest to a student who has to take notes in class, or to an office worker who has to take notes at meeting, etc. It could also be useful for taking surveys, for example, where the basic form would be displayed on the screen, and the survey taker would tick boxes or write a few words to fill it in.

    It would have to be able to quickly save the first page of notes and to give you a new, ‘clean slate’ to use for the second page of notes, and so on until the memory was filled.

    The real benefit of such a device would be if it comes with really, really good handwriting recognition software. If I could have taken twenty pages of notes at one of my university lectures and had the notes converted into searchable, printable, editable text after uploading to my laptop, it would have been wonderful.

    Dealing with formulas and symbols from any specialized field of study, however, would greatly complicate the handwriting recognition software.

    If I was still a student I think I would wait for the second or third generation device to come out. Too much money for a starving student to afford, for something that might or might not be useful.

  4. 12 pak ( 50/pak) legal pads are under $10 online with no battery needed. No Wow factor but can also be used for making airplanes and lobbing at trash cans.

  5. This pad will be perfect for musicians. PDF & pictures of sheet music can be read at full page size. I always need 1000+ songs to be able to play requests as a pianist, and this will hugely help. I just hope it will have a quick refresh rate to change to the next page. Hopefully it’ll preload it to speed up page turns. (and a finger gesture, or a dedicated button for this would be nice). It would suck if we needed the stylus to turn the page.

    1. My thoughts exactly! And if the price is right, I will get them for the entire orchestra –No more paper to sort through!

  6. This is a great idea by sony… Thats will bring the revolution… The day no childreen will use copies and pencils… Just use this slate… Wow
    this will save million of trees…

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