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Tech o’ the Week

Hello happy reader,

A couple of interesting bits about new consumer electronics crossed my desk this week. First up for your consideration, a new Blu-ray transport…Hong Kong–based AMEX Digital announced a Blu-ray “Super Multi Drive” for the current crop of Apple and Win portables. This pup isn’t shipping yet so, no word on build quality but, in light of recent comments by Apple, this will be an amusing product category.

At the October 14th “Spotlight Turns to Notebooks” PR event where Apple rolled out the new “brick” line of portables, Steve Jobs was asked about Blu-ray support. Engadget’s live blog of the event quotes Steve as saying, “Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.” In other words, not in this product’s lifetime. Seems that Apple, as in times past, has issues with the IP pricing structure, this time for Blu-ray licensing.

So, for those who want a reasonable amount of near–line optical storage in an easy to use form factor, Blu-ray has you covered…sort of. The value prop for optical discs is slim in light of the extremely low cost per unit of storage that rotating magnetic media affords. OK, how about entertainment? Ah, sure, Blu-ray does provide improved quality, but only if your crib is as constrained as a Tokyo living room. At typical viewing distances here in the US, I don’t get it, certainly not the need for a new format that provides only incremental improvement in picture quality while bringing nothing new to the audio party. Besides, give it seven years and Blu-ray will be toast, a casualty of downloadable content stored on those same el cheapo disk drives I mentioned earlier. Heck, by then, even SSDs will be price competitive.

Apparently, the AMEX drive comes with no software but the manufacturer recommends Premier Pro and Toast for authoring and basic burning, along with VLC for movie consumption. Actually, VLC is a viable OSS alternative to QuickTime Player due to its native support for less mainstream formats like ogg and DivX.

So, jump on over to Froogle (Google’s shopbot) and grab your copy of the Super Multi Drive, or not. I’ll hold tight until Oppo releases a new universal with Blu-ray support. Ain’t holding my breath on that one either but, I let you know what I find in their booth at CES come January…

On to another CE tech tidbit…It seems that Freestyle Audio has announced the first product to include an e-paper display, in color! This is very groovy for two reasons…foist, e-paper is a low power tech. Unlike emissive display tech like OLED or transmissive tech like LCD, e-paper requires no power to maintain a static image. This translates into loooong battery life. Second, e-paper, being reflective, works well in bright light, where even LCD may have problems. Of course, the converse is also true. Ya can’t see it in the dark so, I assume some sort of ambient lighting is part of the design brief.

Freestyle’s mirasol display, from QMT, points to early wins by Qualcomm in their battle against almost two dozen other e-paper vendors, including electrophoretic pioneer E Ink , MaginkPlastic Logic, heavyweights Bridgestone and Fuji Xerox, as well as Philips spinoff Liquavista. Skullcandy is another design win for QMT. A joint press release states that “(Skullcandy) will incorporate color mirasol™ displays into future MFM Pro headphones with an integrated music player.” Suu-weet! I love my Skullcandy TiTans. For the price, they’re hard to beat.

Both the interference–based mirasol and wacky Liquavista technologies are interesting in that, when coupled with the right display controller, they’re capable of video refresh rates. The electrowetting (get the Depends) Liquidvista tech is a sort of wet version of TI’s micromirror MEMs, where electrostatic forces deform a dye–ladened oil droplet. The possible color gamut is similar to (additive) OLED but, because it’s dye based, subtractive CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow & black) displays are possible which really makes the concept of an portable interactive “print” magazine less than science fiction. Hah, I laugh at your Kindle!

Anyway. he ranteth too much, methinks. I will retract my antennœ now and go about my business. Until next time, continue to geek.

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2 Responses to “Tech o’ the Week”

  1. Halloo hoppy readers,

    This just in [Wall Street Journal TECHNOLOGY, APRIL 11, 2009: Amazon Is Developing Bigger-Screen Kindle]…“ Plastic Logic Ltd. said that it will come out with an electronic reader that is about the size of an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper early next year. The company will conduct a trial launch of its reading device this summer with the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, daily papers that earlier this month stopped delivery of their print versions most days of the week.”

    For more info, see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123939695884009359.html

  2. OMas here…This just in:

    On August 26th, flat panel display analysts firm DisplaySearch forecasts that the total e-paper display market will grow to 1.8 billion units and $9.6 billion in revenues in 2018, from 22 million units and $431 million in revenues in 2009, for a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 41% for revenues and 64% for units.

    For more info, see:

    http://www.displaysearch.com/cps/rde/xchg/displaysearch/hs.xsl/epaper_displays_report.asp