When I first broke the news early last year that Amazon was buying Liquavista, many people wondered why Samsung would part with the company rather than simply sell the screens to Amazon and any other interested party. Earlier today I was browsing the booth of Japan Display Inc, and I found a good example of why there is no market for Liquavista’s screen tech.
JDI had many different screen tech samples on display, including a high-quality low-power solution called White Magic as well as screens intended for industrial use, smartphones, and tablets. They also had a reflective LCD screen on display which they launched last year but don’t have in production.
This 7″ screen boasts a resolution of 1200 x 1920. It lacks a backlight, and as a result it only draws about 20% as much power as a regular LCD screen. With a contrast ratio of 30:1, it offers better contrast than Liquavista’s screen tech. It also can display a broader range of color than Liquavista’s screen tech (30% color gamut, in fact).
This screen is visible in sunlight, making it ideal for a number of use cases, but no device maker is using it. Instead all the device makers are going for either generic LCD screens (with backlight) or high quality LCD, LED, or OLED screens. (I’m sure the relatively narrow viewing angle isn’t helping either.)
Here’s the kicker. I asked, and I was told that JDI could make this screen today – if they had the orders to fill. But they don’t have the orders, and thus the screen remains a demo unit on a show floor.
While that screen is based on different tech from Liquavista’s screens, it is similar enough in concept that it is arguably a competitor to Liquavista’s low-power, sunlight visible screen tech. To put it simply, there doesn’t appear to be much of a market for screens like this, and that’s because color quality trumps battery life at the moment. So long as that remains true this type of screen will stay a rara avis.
The only company interested is Amazon, and they bought their own screen tech company in May 2013. It’s not clear why Amazon invested in Liquavista, but I do know that they have been hiring researchers and developers since February 2014. Amazon of course hasn’t said anything about their plans, but I am ever hopeful that we will see a Liquavista screen on a Kindle eventually.