Amazon has long been rumored to be interested in making a color Kindle, but so far all the rumors have turned out to be hooey. Now I wonder if perhaps Amazon's interest in Liquavista goes back far enough that it inspired all those rumors.
Remember last week when I reported that there might be a connection between Amazon and the screen tech company Liquavista? I didn't have any proof last week, and I don't have solid proof now, but I do have some evidence that is strong enough that I am going to go on the record and say that this deal is in the works.
Amazon is going to buy Liquavista from Samsung.
Last week I showed you that Amazon's hardware subsidiary Lab 126 employed a screen tech person and a CPU architect, 2 interesting details that suggest Amazon is going to develop custom components for the Kindle hardware. I happened across this info while looking for a connection between Liquavista and Amazon, but I didn't receive any proof until after I posted that story.
The next day a friend of mine, Martijn Joosse of eReaders.nl, got back to me with the business records I asked him to look for. There's no paperwork that shows Amazon owns Liquavista (that's how we proved Samsung bought the company), but there is a new registration for
- Amazon Development Center (Netherlands) B.V.
According to the records this company was formed as a software developer and a financial holding company. That doesn't look like much, but once I started to look into the company things got really weird - so weird that it's pretty clear that this is not one of Amazon's usual subsidiaries.
For example, there's no job listings on Amazon or any job site which mentions that location. Amazon is hiring lots of software people in Europe but none in the Netherlands. Of course, the company is only a few weeks so they might not be ready to hire people , but it does make you wonder.
And then there's the location. This company is based at the Schiphol Airport World Trade Center.
That is fairly expensive office space, and if this were really a software development office I would expect it to be located elsewhere in the Netherlands. This location is more suited to, say, a financial holding company owned by folks from Seattle where they could meet folks from Korea and negotiate a deal concerning a Netherlands based screen tech company.
Edit: A reader pointed out that the address I found was most likely a mail drop, not an office. That makes things even stranger, IMO, given that the software developers won't be able to fit inside the mailbox.
But that's not the most interesting bit of detail about this business registration. No, the best part is that I can't prove this company belongs to Amazon. It leads back to a faceless LLC registered in Delaware, and the trail dead ends in a faceless holding company called CSC (remember them?).
I can't actually tell you for certain who owns the newly registered company in the Netherlands. But that's okay, because we've been in this situation before.
When Amazon filed the FCC paperwork for the recently launched Kindle Fire HD tablets, they used a number of different faceless front companies to try to hide their connection to the devices. Someone is using that exact same trick to hide a connection between this new company in the Netherlands and whoever is really making the deal.
If this isn't Amazon then it is someone who is as equally obsessed with secrecy and I can't think of anyone who would copy this trick so carefully.
Amazon is buying Liquavista. Or at the very least they are buying part of the company (making a major investment) and plan to use Liquavista's screen in the next Kindle.
Samsung bought Liquavista in early 2011, and quickly renamed the company Liquavista/SNRC (Samsung Netherlands Research Center). They've been funding research at Liquavista for the past couple years but so far as I know they have not actually released a device which used a Liquavista screen. This tech is going to have the same color qualities as LCDs while also being much more energy-efficient. It's been under development for 10 years now and was supposed to enter mass production in 2010, 2011, and this year (it keeps getting pushed back).
From what I can tell Liquavista has not shown off any new demos since June 2011
2010. They were partnered with Freescale at the time and showed off a few demos at Freescale's HQ in Toulouse, France. This was of course before Samsung bought the company.
Liquavista was at SID Display Week 2011 where Engadget shot this video:
The latest info I have is that Liquavista expected to have their screen tech in mass production this year. This deal could be a sign that the screen tech is ready, and that Amazon is so interested that they are investing in Liquavista.
But we won't know for sure until Amazon makes it official.