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Exclusive: Amazon Has Shut Down Liquavista

Here’s a fascinating footnote to tomorrow’s Amazon news.

I have official confirmation today of a rumor that circulated in March: Amazon has shut down its screen tech sub, Liquavista.

An Amazon rep told me this morning that they "can confirm that Liquivista is no longer operating". However, they were unable to tell me whether Amazon still be pursuing this tech, if Liquavista’s R&D work been shifted to another unit, or the state of their screen production.

If Amazon stays true to form, this information will probably be released to Techcrunch or another major news site after I break this story.

It is also entirely possible that Liquavista will play into tomorrow’s announcement, but that is really just a wild guess. (I am not playing coy; due to Amazon PR giving me the runaround I really don’t know anything about tomorrow.) That is unlikely, however; I was first tipped to this story by a reader who noticed the Liquavista website went down 3 weeks ago. (Thanks, Javi!) If Amazon were still doing something with Liquavista, the site would have been restored when I pointed it out to Liquavista weeks ago.

Launched in 2006 as a spin off from Philips, Liquavista had been developing a unique type of screen tech that was based on running an electric current through a liquid. This is called electrowetting technology, which is a fancy way of saying that each pixel in a Liquavista screen contained 3 liquids (red, green, blue), and that the color shown by a pixel depended on the amount of power fed into each liquid.

Here’s a demo of a Liquavista screen from 2013. Recorded shortly before the Amazon acquisition, this was the last time Liquavista showed off their screen tech.

The screens were originally being developed as a solution to the battery life issue. Mobile battery life was terrible back in the pre-iPad, pre-iPhone, and pre-netbook era, and people were willing to pay a premium for a screen which used less power than typical LCD screens.

That was why the company was launched, and why Samsung bought it in 2011, but by the time Amazon bought Liquavista in 2013, it was pretty clear that there was no broader market for this tech. The problem of mobile battery life had been solved and battery capacity was already improving year by year, and screens were getting more and more energy efficient.

Coincidentally, I was the first to report that Samsung bought Liquavista in 2011, and the first to report that it had been sold to Amazon in 2013, and now I am the first to officially report Liquavista’s demise.

Liquavista never did get their screens into production; I see from my archives that mass production was supposed to begin in 2013; however, nothing reached the market, and it’s not clear that they even started production.

Liquavista were one of many startups that competed to provide a low-power screen solution, and most of them are dead now.  The lucky few like Pixtronix and Mirasol lived long enough to be acquired, while the majority declared bankruptcy or simply shut down.

The one survivor from that era is E-ink. First commercially produced for the Sony Librie and later the original Kindle, E-ink screens still dominate the ereader market, although with the way that market is shrinking due to people holding on to last year’s model (it still works great), it is hard to predict the company’s financial future.

Liquavista’s future is equally uncertain.

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Comments


vrf 15 October, 2018 um 10:55 am

The technology just isn’t there yet. It’s always the same with these reflective light color displays… the bright "white" point you see in videos is always from one angle where the reflection of the light source is optimal. The result is murkier in most use cases, unless you front light it, which further reduces clarity.


Javi 15 October, 2018 um 12:04 pm

when you announced that Amazon had bought Liquavista excite me. I thought we’d finally see a color ereader. It’s a Shame. Color reflectives screens seem to have a curse that you laugh at the Tutankhamun.
It’s not just the battery, it’s better for the view. Could replace textbooks in schools around the world… but it seems that there are seious problems for the technology to be viable.
Well, we still got ACEP… not?


Mike Cane 15 October, 2018 um 12:58 pm

Don’t forget Mirasol wound up in a South Korean eReader. And thereupon disappointed the entire world.

eInk will survive as a company as long as there’s a good profit in shelf price tags. B&H, AFAIK, was first using them. Now Best Buy has them too.

Nate Hoffelder 15 October, 2018 um 1:54 pm

Also a smart watch.

Okay, that was one product that did make it to market, but only because Qualcomm was willing to throw lots of money at it. It had a high rejection rate on the production line, and they never did work out the screen quality issues.

Mike Cane 15 October, 2018 um 6:46 pm

Don’t be silly. Apple owns smartwatches now. And keep up: https://atomicsupermen.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/steven-troughton-smiths-latest-witchcraft-is-apple-watch-faces/

Nate Hoffelder 15 October, 2018 um 7:59 pm

I didn’t say it was a successful smartwatch. just that it existed at one point.

Mike Cane 16 October, 2018 um 5:30 am

Wasn’t there another that was crowdfunded, actually made it to Best Buy, and then went away? I forget its name.

Nate Hoffelder 16 October, 2018 um 8:00 am

Pebble – it used a screen made by Sharp.


Amazon-owned Liquavista screen technology company shutting down – Start Shopping Online 15 October, 2018 um 4:51 pm

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Steve H. 16 October, 2018 um 7:39 am

It would be great if new tech emerges from Amazon …a very short time will tell.


Marie 17 October, 2018 um 7:29 pm

This is disappointing news.

What about ClearInk? Isn’t that still promising?

Nate Hoffelder 17 October, 2018 um 8:30 pm

It looks nice but there’s no sign that they are ever going to get into production.


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