Marvell Partners With E Ink On eReader Technology

The deal will give Marvell a leg up in the e-book reader market, and likely result in better, cheaper devices.

Chip maker Marvell Technology Group made a partnership with E Ink that could give Marvell a major boost in the e-book reader market. The two companies agreed to co-develop system-on-a-chips for e-readers that combine capabilities delivered in multiple chips today, thereby lowering the cost of the components used in manufacturing the hardware, according to an announcement from Marvell Tuesday.

"Our collaboration with Marvell will deliver an integrated system-on-a-chip solution to the market," Sriram Peruvemba, VP of marketing at E Ink, said in a statement. "This SoC solution is aimed at offering highly desired features at competitive price points."

For Marvell, the partnership builds a strong tie with the biggest supplier of electronic paper displays. E Ink's technology is used in most e-readers on the market today.

In building a SoC for e-readers, E Ink and Marvell will be building on top of the latter company's Armada 166E processor, which the company claims offers faster renderings of text and PDF documents, while also enabling slimmer hardware. Marvel also makes processors used in mobile phones and other devices.

Another e-reader component maker, FirstPaper, agreed to contribute its technology to the Marvell/E Ink SoC. FirstPaper's technology makes it possible to support a range of display sizes and resolutions, particularly useful for layouts and graphics associated with periodicals.

Marvell and E Ink expect their joint SoCs to be used in e-readers shipping next year. Marvell customers today include Plastic Logic, enTourage Systems and Spring Design.

Reducing the price of e-readers is pivotal for driving the devices into the mainstream consumer market. Today, market leaders Amazon and Sony sell e-readers with starting prices of $259 and $199, respectively, well above what's needed to attract the majority of consumers.

A recent Forrester Research study found that the devices would have to be priced at $50 to reach the mainstream market. Such a price tag today wouldn't cover the price of the display, which is the most expensive component. Nevertheless, reducing the price of the microprocessors, wireless communication chips and other components would help in driving down price.

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