Samsung Targets E-Reader Market with Liquavista Acquisition

The acquisition of e-reader display specialist Liquavista suggests Samsung is planning on an e-reader of its own.

Seeking to gain a leg up in the growing e-reader market, Samsung Electronics has acquired Liquavista, a Dutch company that uses electrowetting cell technology to build digital displays for mobile applications such as e-readers, mobile phones, GPS devices, portable media players and cameras.

"In the future, consumers will need products that not only support full color and video, but also offer readability in all lighting conditions and gives them ultimate freedom and portability," said Johan Feenstra, who was named CEO of Liquavista following the acquisition. "Being part of Samsung, we can all be sure that electrowetting display technology will find its way to the market in the fastest possible time."

Liquivista, which was acquired for an undisclosed sum in a buyout of its shares, will become a fully owned affiliate of Samsung Electronics.

Liquavista's first technology platform, LiquavistaBright, is designed to enable a smooth, fast user interface on e-reader devices, due to the inherent video capability. LiquavistaColor, based on the LiquavistaBright architecture, adds a color filter to create full-color displays, analogous to LCD displays but with enhanced optical performance.

A third technology, LiquavistaVivid, combines the high optical performance of a monochrome display with the highly saturated color performance that people are used to from TV screens, Designed to run on a low-power e-reader, the company said these screens would allow e-readers to converge with other applications and become fully interactive multimedia portable devices.

"We are thrilled by this event," said Feenstra. "The outright acquisition of Liquavista by the largest electronics company in the world is ... confirmation of the disruptive potential that our technology will have in the display market."

A Samsung release explained that in e-paper applications, the response time of electrowetting displays would be more than 70 times faster than that of existing reflective displays, allowing for color videos, which the company said was previously thought impossible.

"As electrowetting can be manufactured by modifying existing LCD production lines, Samsung will be able to realize significant synergies through the use of existing manufacturing equipment and capabilities, the statement said.

Sales of e-readers are projected to increase 68.3 percent in 2011, to more than 11 million units, according to a December report from Gartner.

While Samsung, Sony, Amazon and others battle for market share, they also face a growing threat from Apple and the iPad tablet. A recent survey from ChangeWave Research suggested that the iPad's share of the e-reader market had expanded from 16 percent to 32 percent between August and November 2010, even as the Kindle's dipped from 62 percent to 47 percent.