18. February 2010

The iPad and the Kindle, sitting in a tree …

Apple iPad

About two weeks ago I, like many others, watched with a cautious amount of expectation at the apple keynote, where Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. I even had the patience to watch the whole thing. I generally liked what I saw, but I had a few thoughts that made me start wondering about the possibilities ahead.

The iPad: A step in the right direction

As an owner of an iPod Touch I have to say, I want this device! It’s bigger, faster (or so they say, at least) and holds almost an infinite amount of potential because of the apps. I have used my Touch to brows the web, but I mostly try avoiding it. Simply put, the screen is too small. The iPad would be perfect for it, and it’ll probably change the way we generally perceive the web. The iBooks store I hope will bring the same breakthrough to the book industry as the iTunes store brought to the music industry. However …

I read, a lot sometimes. Not that long ago I had to travel an hour by bus back and forth to school every day, and I hoped I would be able to use my Touch to read on the road. I tried it, and I managed to go through two books, but I eventually stopped. Why? The same reason I’d rather go to the library than read a book downloaded to my computer. The screen is too bright to be able to keep it up for as long as I’d like without causing headaches, and probably permanent damage to my eyes. And the iPad has a brilliantly bright screen.

About the Kindle

Amazon Kindle

When Amazon first introduced their reading device, the Kindle, I fell in love. I wanted one. But I don’t live in the U.S.A., I live on a small island that technical innovations sometimes take a long, looooong time to reach. The Kindle is, happily, available to the world now, but it does cost a considerable sum, specially now as the credit crunch still reigns. I have foregone buying it, for now at least. I feel very fortunate now, as the iPad makes its debut. The Kindle is meant as a reading device, almost restrictively, although some little features are possible on it as well. Being able to surf the web, write e-mail, documents, look at photos and do all the other amazing things the iPad offers sounds like a hundred times the value for the same prize. And yet, I am torn.

Amazon Kindle close view

On one hand, we have the iPad, with all its now-well-stated qualities. On the other hand, we have the Kindle. More specifically, we have the Kindle’s E-Ink display screen.



In short, the E-Ink display is a screen that uses actual tiny ink pigments, along with electronic charge, to render an image. An E-Ink screen has no back-lighting, requires only energy to change what it is showing, making it extremely power-efficient, and it renders a very soft image which is good on the eyes. It is the perfect material for a reading device, and good enough to view newspapers. It even looks good in the sun. In fact, since it has no back-light, you actually need light to view it. On the Kindle it looks exactly like a page from a book, except you can change what it says with the touch of a button, and you can read on for a full week before the battery runs out. It has it’s limits, though. Currently, it only shows black and white. The color display is in development, which is promising, but it’ll probably take some time to get it to the current level of detail on the black and white display. Also, changing what the screen shows, or “turning the page”, takes a few tiny moments too long. Not necessarily for reading, but for the possibility I have in mind, namely showing video.

So why would I want to see an E-Ink video?

The real question is, why wouldn’t everybody want to see an E-Ink video? Can you imagine watching a movie, except every frame of the picture is more like a photograph? Without the back-light your eyes wouldn’t get as tired, you wouldn’t have to close all the curtains to keep the sun out, not to mention how flat the flat screens would become. In fact, they would probably look like a big framed photograph on your wall. A moving photograph. I’m not even sure I can really imagine how it would look. The closest I can come to it is drawing stick-figures on the corners of my notebook and flipping through them, and that has to be a pretty bad resemblance.

So what am I getting at?

iPad + Kindle

I would buy the iPad without hesitation, probably as soon as it came out, despite all the potential bugs that have yet to be revealed and improvements and enhancements that will most likely be made by apple in just a years time, if only, if only, it had an E-Ink display!

But it doesn’t. Hopefully, somewhere in the future, it will have. I’ll probably be very old then, and have eyes that can’t read properly, anyway. Or will I?

The not-so-distant alternative

3Qi display beside a Kindle

Today, as I casually surfed the oh-so-large web, I came across this thing. It’s called 3Qi display technology, and it’s made by Pixel Qi. The basics of it are simply a normal LCD display, except you can turn the back-light off, to get an e-ink monochromatic display. In one word, it’s Amazing! Currently, it’s not in any device on the market, but they have begun production, and there is a rumour about a known-device-maker revealing something, rather sooner than later, although they seem to speak in riddles when they’re asked for a more precise time.

The conclusion of it all

iPad + 3Qi = Happy Me

My head spins as it forms a dream. A dream of a device that’s exactly like the iPad in every way, except if you switch a little button, BANG!, it’s the Kindle! If only, if only, if only! I see myself crawling out of bed in the morning and, as I prepare my porridge, turning on this dreamy, dreamy device. I see myself eating my porridge as I flip through my favourite newspapers on a non-back-lit display. I see myself holding the dreamy, dreamy device as I put my bowl in the sink, and watch a video of a little kitten doing something very silly-but-extremely-cute on a brilliantly fast and colorful LCD display. And finally, I see myself coming home from work, grabbing my dreamy, dreamy device, going outside to enjoy the sun (this is in summertime, of course), turning on non-back-lit display and start writing, without having to worry about glare from the sun, or even the battery running out too fast.

Hopefully, one day, my dream will come true.

Some notes

I have never touched, or even seen, an iPad, Kindle, E-Ink or 3Qi device, which of course limits my ability to judge. I have, however, read much about them and watched many videos, which is why I feel I have enough knowledge to make an educated guess about them. I hope you agree.

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