LG’s New Flexible Electronic Newspaper Looks Great – But Do We Need It?

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LG electronic e-paper prototype
LG Display is touting its newest innovation: a 19 inch prototype e-newspaper. Would you buy it?

I have mixed feelings about LG Display’s new prototype e-paper. The Korean company recently unveiled a 19-inch flexible screen that is only 0.3mm thick – close enough to standard newspaper. According to the press release, the e-paper takes advantage of “gap-in-panel” (GIP) technology to move integrated circuits into the screen itself, increasing its flexibility. No doubt about it, this news-e-paper prototype is meant to shock and awe us here in the blogosphere, and I am duly impressed. However, the press release is short on some important details: resolution, charge-time, run-time, cost, etc. In fact, LG Display is really hoping to hype its release of 11.5 inch e-papers (typically notebook size) due out the first half of this year. So I’m definitely in awe about this cool new LG device, but I’m not sure if it’s going to make a big impact on the future. Check out a close-up of the e-paper after the break.

Certainly e-books are taking off, and e-periodicals are likely to follow suit in the next few years. But e-media does not an e-newspaper make. Electronic readers have been thought of as hardware, like the Kindle from Amazon, but may be shifting towards software like Blio, Barnes and Noble reader, Microsoft reader or just .PDF files. Why buy a really cool LG e-paper when you already have a smart phone that can display all the media you want? Maybe the size is an issue, but Tablet computers are looking to make a big surge this year, are likely to be in the neighborhood of 11.5 inches, and you can bet they will have color, too. I’m just not convinced that e-paper is going to be the technology where consumers want to invest their money. As LG fills in that missing information (cost and run-time are especially important) I may change my mind. The more important development may be the GIP advancement to provide flexible durable TFT displays. LG Display may make a killing off of selling that to other developers. For now, I think that e-paper is an amazing technology that is going to fail. Awe mixed with pessimism – is there an emoticon for that?

LG Display's e-paper
The TFT and GIP technology allow for some impressive bending. Not sure if that distorts the image. I think that LG may have more success selling the screen than the e-newspaper concept.

[photo credits: LG Display]