You may have seen the news about Marvell Technology Group, a chip-maker, integrating its chips into E Ink's display modules. This sounds very tech-y, but it has real consequences for the consumer experience of eReaders. Namely:

  • It speeds up the refresh rate of the E Ink screen…One of the first things consumers notice when trying out an E Ink-based eReader is the noticeably long delay when flipping a page or taking another action like changing the text size. This is especially annoying on touch devices like the Sony Touch Edition. Consumers are used to the iPhone touch experience, and the experience they have on the Web clicking on links–if they don't get immediate feedback, they assume it's not working. Currently, the microprocessing chip operates outside the display module, which is one reason why it's so slow. Integrating the chip into the E Ink display module will speed up the refresh rate of the screen by as much as half, according to Marvell, in addition to driving down manufacturing costs.
  • …Which creates a better user experience, and enables animation and other cool stuff. In addition to being generally less annoying for consumers, integrating the chip into the display will enable animated content–not full-on video, but black-and-white animation that will be useful especially for ads. Marvell has announced that they're working with FirstPaper (the secretive company backed by Hearst) as one of their partners, and having seen their device I can attest that they put the technology to good use. Marvell has said they'll announce more partners at CES in January, including companies working on dual-screen devices that need the faster processing capability for video and Web browsing