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The first generation of products

Wednesday, 27 September, 2006

The one thing that has kept my profession alive, aside from the novelty in some quarters of things like personalized envelopes and business cards, is the absence of a direct replacement for an actual book. Most of our customers are attorneys, doctors, and other professionals who are insufficiently sophisticated to realize for their purposes paper is redundant. Indeed, much of my own company’s internal communication is done on paper, even though an entire infrastructure is in place making paper obsolete even within our printing company. Xerox, Sony and Seiko have been pushing a Xerox-developed technology called E-ink. No one is biting. Probably because these same people don’t comprehend the PDF files they read on the laptop they carry around like an external organ can do even more than the mythical book replacement for which they’re waiting.

What E-ink actually is is a high-resolution (over 600 dpi) but few shades grayscale display which is about as thick as ten sheets of “commodity paper”. It is allegedly semi-flexible and tough enough to be dropped on a regular basis. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never actually had any contact with it whatsoever. In 2005, Seiko released a $450 watch which was a 30 millimeter wide, 4 millimeter thick bangle upon which the time and date was displayed with a user-selected font. It had no face per se, merely a bangle with an ever changing embossed-looking design. This was the first purchasable application of E-ink.

I’ve heard whispers that Sony and Philips were working together, as they did with the Compact Disc so long ago, on a solution to be sold by both companies and licensed to others, like the CD. Today, Sony released to North America their long-awaited Portable Reader System. It reads TXT, PDF, and a bunch of other formats. It has 64 MB on board and reads SD cards. In short, this is the electronic book for which certain people have been waiting. This could be the ipod of my industry. The Philips, Euro version has been out for a few months. No word on its impact on the business, but its very early.

Fortunately, it is being promoted by Sony; the people who brought us Betamax, MiniDisc, analog High Definition video and the multi-standard AM-stereo receiver. Of course, they also created the world standard in portable radios and the Walkman all those years ago. They’re due for a success.

Is Volt still hiring?

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