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Electronic books are not something completely new for the market and have existed for years. However, only recently they began to gain popularity and it looks like rather expensive Amazon Kindle is now the most accepted e-book reader. However, with the emergence of modular platforms for e-book readers from Marvell and E Ink the expensive devices may get serious competition.

Marvell, a designer of various controllers, this week announced its collaboration with E Ink, the supplier of electronic paper display (EPD) technologies for most of the world’s e-readers.  The two companies have begun to ship a highly integrated e-reader processor available in complete turnkey platforms aimed at the fast-growing e-reader market. These new platforms are expected to accelerate the rapid release of new forms of e-readers at a variety of price points.

“With this announcement, Marvell raises the technology bar and takes the lead in the e-reader market,” said Ms. Weili Dai, vice president and general manager of the company's consumer and computing business unit at Marvell Semiconductor.

Central to this new e-reader platform is the world’s first commercially available system-on-chip that integrates a high performance processor and state of the art EPD controller on a single chip – the Marvell Armada 166E application processor. The Armada 166E is designed to offer users ultra-fast renderings of high resolution PDF documents and support for the latest ePaper technologies in new smaller, slimmer form factors with lower system cost than the competition. The Armada 166E also brings to e-readers new features that save power and extend battery life including a zero power mode. Besides, Armada 166E can be coupled with other chips by Marvell, such as 3G, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi controllers to enable e-book readers necessary connectivity.

According to the company, Marvell’s new eBook platform promises to accelerate the release of categories of e-readers, lower bill of materials costs by more than 15% and allow OEMs to speed up time to market.

“Because this is a total platform solution – including Marvell key technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G modem, and power management – the Armada e-reader has the potential to deliver the first mass market product accessible and affordable to billions of consumers around the world,” added Ms. Weili Dai.

The two companies have also joined forces with FirstPaper, to integrate technology that enables a range of display sizes and resolutions, including support for larger screens that will deliver layouts, graphics, and content choices that people normally associate with periodicals, larger-format books, and documents.

“Periodicals are the next big frontier in e-reading. To enable great newspaper and magazine reading experiences, e-reading devices need the right tools to make richer layouts and complex content come to life. We are excited to be working with Marvell to bring such tools to the market,” said Gil Fuchsberg, president of FirstPaper, which promises bring a new e-reading ecosystem to market in 2010.

Marvell’s and E Ink’s e-book platform has already scored three design wins: Plastic Logic’s QUE, Spring Design’s Alex eReader and enTourage eDGe are powered by Armada 166E.

As one of the fastest growing consumer markets, e-book readers continue to grow in popularity due to falling retail prices, improved features, and fast growing library of digital content. According to a recent iSuppli Research report, e-readers are projected to top 18 million units shipped in 2012, from 1.1 million units last year.

Tags: Marvell, E Ink, Armada, E-Book, Plastic Logic, Spring Design, enTourage

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