Johan Feenstra, the head of the Samsung LCD Netherlands R & D Center (SNRC), said recently that the screen tech won't be ready for mass production until 2013. Feenstra was a speaker at a digital reading and tablet event in Bussum earlier this week, and that is where he also indicated that they're focusing on larger screens as well, with a 9.7" prototype in the offing.
Feenstra has been working with Samsung's electro-wetting screen tech since 2002, long before it belonged to Samsung. The tech was originally developed by Liquavista, a company that Feenstra helped found in 2002. Samsung bought Liquavista in early 2011, and a couple months later relaunched the firm as SNRC.
The news today is rather thin, but it's interesting none the less. Back before it was bought, Liquavista had planned to release smaller screens in the 6" or so range. Basically they were going after the ereader market. But this was back in 2010 and before.
Unfortunately for Liquavista, the price point for the 6" ereader market dropped below what they'd need to charge for their screen. Between B&N and Amazon, you can get an ereader here in the US for under $100 bucks.
And the tablet market is almost as bad. While there are 7" tablets in the $400 range, they're all premium devices with hardware costs that leave little margin for a new and expensive screen.
So why continue to develop the screens? Well, Liquavista's screen tech is much more energy efficient than LCD screens, even though it's based on similar technology. And the LCD screen on a device is often the biggest battery drain, so if you can replace it with screen that is only half as demanding (Liquavista can do even better), you should be able to significantly extend the battery life.
On the other hand, battery life isn't the bugaboo it was when Liquavista was founded, or even when it was bought. It's not unusual anymore to see a tablet with a day or more of usable battery life. By the time that this screen tech actually hits the market, there might not be much of a need for it anymore.