It seems Liquavista, which had previously expected to start producing screens in 2013, is turning its focus back to R&D. They have a slew of job listings on their website, including a bunch which mention R&D in the title or suggest it in the description:
Curiously enough, they also have job opening which suggest an interest in production:
- Process Quality Engineer
- Product Test Engineer
- Process Development Engineer
- Product Development Manager
Paul Durrant was the first to catch the news over at MobileRead, and he thinks this is a sign that the Liquavista screens are about to go into
imminent production. I'm not so sure. This firm has been a perennial candidate for the title of "next year's best new screen tech" for the past 4 years running, so you would think they have all the required staff by now.
Update: An industry contact has pointed out that most of these jobs are located in Eindhoven, where Liquavista has their development facility, and not Asia, where the screens would be produced. That again suggests that these jobs are focused on R&D and not production.
But I could be wrong. Liquavista last crossed my desk in November 2013, when a reader tipped me to their new website. (They're now publicly branded as an Amazon company.) This surge of hiring could be a sign of Amazon's intention to get a Liquavista screen on the Kindle as soon as they can.
Liquavista has been working on a new type of screen tech for a decade now, first as a project at Philips and then as a startup after it was spun off in 2006. They've come up with a way to use existing LCD screen manufacturing facilities to produce a low-power, sunlight visible screen which functions based on electrowetting properties.
Unfortunately, after a decade of work Liquavista still hasn't managed to bring a product to market. All we've ever seen were some cool looking demos.
The promise of the new screen tech was why Samsung bought the firm in early 2011, and the lack of any production units could be why they sold Liquavista to Amazon in May 2013.
So why did Amazon want the company? The obvious answer is color Kindles, but the less obvious answer is that, like most tech companies, Amazon operates under what I call the fusion principle. If you squeeze enough tech into one place, the resulting implosion results in a marketable product.
In this case, it need not be a screen on a tablet or ebook reader. Amazon's a huge company, and they do far more than make gadgets. Perhaps they wanted Liquavista in order to use the screen tech in a different market.