Monday, June 22, 2015

The Future of E-Readers is IMX 7

CIHTOxEVEAER--2Freescale has  played a pivotal role in the e-reader industry  from the very first Sony e-Reader to the modern day Amazon Kindle Voyage. Their processors and internals allow e-paper to truly shine and directly impact everything from page turns to battery life. Today, Freescale has just announced the future of e-reader tech, IMX 7.

The IMX 7 Dual (1 GHZ)  and IMX 7 Solo Lite (800 MHZ) are two new processors that will power the e-reader industry for the next four years.

The main attraction of the new product line is the dual core processor and how e-readers will basically take a huge jump forward in terms of overall performance, while remaining future proof.

The IMX 7 Dual will be the saving grace of e-readers, it has been totally optimized for e-ink Regal and whatever new technologies that are released by E INK in the future.  Why is this important? Page turn speed will be dramatically increased.  In the past this mechanism was handled by software, which prevented companies like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo from taking a big step forward in innovation. Now, page turns are handled by the hardware itself, so each page turn will be less than 100 milliseconds.

Solving the page turn program is a big step forward, but that’s not the only thing that is being remedied. Ghosting will also be solved with this framework, which is a huge deal. Normally with e-readers you will have a full page refresh every six pages or in some cases every chapter. The reason for this, is the longer the display goes without a full page refresh text gradually starts super imposing itself, which makes it difficult to read.  I have never liked full page refreshes, as it breaks reading immersion.   Now, this will also be fixed, which means less full page refreshes because again, its now hardware based, instead of software.

Likely the largest innovation in the IMX product line is the support for hardware dithering.  This will allow e-reader companies that work with the Linux or Android platforms to be able to include animated content. This will include truly animated page turns, interactive menus and video.

The big trend in 2014 were European companies starting to adopt Android as the operating system of choice to power e-readers. Many brands empowered users to install their own e-reading apps, such as Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Sadly, all of these apps were designed for smartphones and tablets and had lots of animated page turns that really struggled with e-ink screens. The IMX 7 dual solves this and will make e-reading on Android way more viable.

Battery life has always been a big issue with e-readers. The companies who make them always are walking a fine line between developing cool features that users want and battery performance.  Batteries are often one of the biggest costs when designing an e-reader, but this is no longer the case. Using the new processor framework companies can now use smaller batteries, saving on manufacturing costs and also gain 3x the performance vs IMX 6.

Mass production on the new IMX 7 product line will begin this November and I was told it was very likely we might see a commercial product from a big name company towards the end of the year. If Amazon, Kobo or Barnes and Noble can be first to the market with a next generation e-reader it could be game changing.

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