Marvell, E Ink Team Up for Better eReaders

Marvell and E Ink today announced an alliance whereby E Ink’s electronic paper display (EPD) technology would be integrated into the Marvell Armada 166E processor, which the firm recently introduced.

This integration would serve multiple purposes, all of which echo the goals of the E Ink/Freescale alliance of just a few weeks ago: fewer parts in the eReader, which results in less power draw; a lower bill of materials; and increased performance thanks to the on-chip integration.

Marvell just introduced its Armada line of ARM-based processors. The four chips in the line are targeted at different markets. The 100-series is for extremely low power draws and long battery life and is meant for devices like eReaders, mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and smartphones.

The two firms are already fairly far along in the process and expect to show eReader products from customers at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which takes place in Las Vegas in January. Product will begin shipping in the first-quarter of 2010, according to Jack Kang, director of technical marketing in the processor group at Marvel (NASDAQ: MRVL).

eReader meets netbook

One company, though, already has something in the works. enTourage Systems has the eDGe, what it calls a “dual book,” a combined eReader and netbook. The clamshell design has an eReader on one side and LCD display for the netbook on the other, and it uses an Armada processor.

Integrating the E Ink technology into the Armada 166E will reduce the cost of materials by up to 20 percent, Kang said, depending on the display panel used. Plus, there are other benefits. “It offers a one-stop shop and time to market is shorter, because everything is already designed to be working together,” Kang told

The obvious market for the integrated chipset is eReaders. Marvell has a license to perform significant customizations to the ARM chipset, so it claims much better performance than other ARM processors. This in turn makes for faster eBooks, with fast screen refresh rates.

But Marvell also sees new potential markets as well because it will offer a platform reference design to quickly build an eReader. Customers can use the vanilla design or make their own modifications.

“With this platform, we’re enabling a whole new set of customers,” Kang told “There will always people who want to do their own thing and that’s fine, but if they need to they can take the reference design and get something to market quickly much faster.” A start-up can take the reference design and add its own “secret sauce” to bring a product to market as well, he added.

Marvell will support Google Android, Microsoft Windows Embedded, Windows Mobile and Ubuntu Linux. It will provide developers with the tools they need to build applications on those platforms.

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