As we send this issue off to press, rumors of Amazon’s fall release of Kindle 2.0 and late 2008/early 2009 release of Kindle 3.0 (started by the editor-in-chief of tech blog CrunchGear.com, John Biggs), remain unconfirmed. Amazon’s press department responded to my inquiry with the usual tight-lipped, Amazon response: “… We do not comment on rumors or speculation.”
According to Biggs’ blog:
“An insider let slip that two new Amazon Kindle models will hit stores this holiday season, with the first coming as early as October. The first is an updated version with the same-sized screen, a smaller form factor and an improved interface. The source told us that Amazon has ‘skipped three or four generations,’ comparing the old Kindle to the first-gen iPod and the new version to something like the sexy iPod Mini.
“The second new model, which is shaped like an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper, is considerably bigger than the current model and should be available next year.”
The secrecy can’t help but to fuel the buzz, though, and keep everyone guessing how the Kindle is faring in the marketplace, with estimates of Kindle sales ranging from a few thousand to 50,000-plus. The blogosphere speculates that Amazon hopes to keep selling Kindle 1.0, and if word spreads that 2.0 is coming out in a few months, Kindle 1.0 sales will soften.
Assuming the rumors about Kindle 2.0 and 3.0 are true, we’ll have to wonder what advancements will accompany a move by Amazon to produce a larger, third-generation device … one that is, coincidentally, the size of a magazine.
Competition Heats Up
In the meantime, a new player will be entering the e-reader market this fall, possibly giving Amazon some stiff (or should I say flexible?) competition. Polymer Vision plans to launch its Readius—the “first pocket e-book reader”—in Europe this fall and in the United States in early 2009, according to Thomas van der Zijden, Polymer Vision’s vice president of marketing and sales. The new device will feature a flexible, rollout, electrophoretic display (e-paper) and a wireless connection for downloading books, magazines and even e-mail. It also supports text and image viewing, as well as audio formats. The product’s specifications state that pages refresh in 0.5 seconds. (See Readius.com for more information.)
While the company showcased in May a prototype of a full-color, rollout display it is developing, the first-generation Readius will not feature color. (It will feature 16 gray levels.) Polymer Vision also is working on “video capabilities, touch screen, high-resolution, larger displays, all of which you may expect to hit the market within five years from now,” says van der Zijden.
According to the company, “Readius is exclusive as it pioneers rollable displays,” so it’s about the size of a cellphone when it’s rolled up, and unrolls into a 5-inch diagonal screen.
The retail price for the device, according to van der Zijden, “has not been communicated yet.”
One tech guru mentioned to me that with Amazon’s resources and access to publishers, he can’t see how any other e-readers can compete. Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla, he said. In today’s world of garage-businesses-turned-global-empires, however, it’s certainly not an impossibility. It seems likely that consumers will go where the technology is. And speaking of where the technology is, Polymer Vision owns the technology it is using in its e-reader; in October 2007, it acquired Innos Ltd. UK, the manufacturing subcontractor of the company’s rollable displays, unifying both companies’ goals for the product’s advancement.