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Amazon acquires touch-screen maker for future Kindle project

post #1 of 74
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Amazon has purchased touch-screen startup Touchco, with plans to incorporate it into the Kindle's hardware division.

The New York Times reports that Amazon has acquired New York-based Touchco, a small start-up specializing in touchscreen technology. The company's interpolating force-sensitive resistance technology allows for flexible, transparent, pressure-sensitive touch-screens that could cost as little as $10 a square foot.

As a comparison, the capitative touch-screens in the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are more expensive and cannot detect the unlimited amount of simultaneous touch points that Touchco's technology allows.

Touchco's technology can reportedly distinguish between the differing pressures produced by a finger or stylus.

According to the Times, Touchco consists of around six employees and Amazon plans on incorporating both the new personnel and technology into its Kindle hardware division, named Lab126, which is located in Cupertino, Calif. - also home to Apple.

Apple's introduction of the iPad in January has already had an effect on Amazon's Kindle. Two major publishers have used Apple's content deals as leverage to negotiate new pricing agreements with the bookseller.

When Apple introduced the iPad last week, it also unveiled the new iBooks application for reading e-books. The software includes the iBookstore, which allows users to purchase content that will be displayed on their virtual bookshelf. Apple announced deals with five major book partners, including Macmillan and HarperCollins.

Amazon's purchase of Touchco can be thought of as a direct response to Apple's iPad, and the technology acquired could be included in the next iteration of its Kindle e-reader.

The Times writes, "Amazon has been looking to compete with Apple on other fronts as well. Last month, it announced plans for a Kindle applications store and an effort to get developers to create the same breadth of programs for the Kindle that they have created for the iPhone and, soon, the iPad."
post #2 of 74
Wow.

That's seems like the type of technology that Apple would have bought up pretty quickly, unless they already have similar technology at their disposal that they haven't shown yet in their products.
post #3 of 74
Sounds good and much needed for Kindle to survive. But does an eBook reader need unlimited touch points? I suppose low cost is a big draw here, assuming it works as well without fuzzing out the display like Sony's touch-based eBook readers do.
post #4 of 74
So those six employees are going to move from New York to Cupertino and work for....Amazon?
For Amazon's sake, they better have some strong incentives for those people to stay in their current jobs.
post #5 of 74
That is so interesting ... can't wait to see what amazon has in store
post #6 of 74
Hahahahahaha!
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post #7 of 74
I think someone is afraid.
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post #8 of 74
I call this throwing good money after bad. This is just complete and utter folly for Amazon to think that they can compete against Apple in hardware.
post #9 of 74
Who says Apple's touch screen cannot detect unlimited touch points? We only have 10 fingers!
post #10 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

So those six employees are going to move from New York to Cupertino and work for....Amazon?
For Amazon's sake, they better have some strong incentives for those people to stay in their current jobs.

Consider the weather. It's currently sunny and in the 60ºs.
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post #11 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

I call this throwing good money after bad. This is just complete and utter folly for Amazon to think that they can compete against Apple in hardware.

Maybe true, maybe not. But the technology sounds interesting and could lead to all sorts of posibilities if it is really viable. I'm all for it if it has the possibility to move us forward.

Besides, I believe Amazon is showing that they understand the future of the game--if they did not make a play for the hardware, they would have *nothing* when competitors like Apple came out with snazzy devices like the iPad linked directly to their iBook store.

I don't think it is a done deal that Apple has this market sewed up in the future, but it would be much more likely if all Amazon had was apps on everyone else's hardware....

I give Amazon credit for the push they are making (even if the idea of a Kindle apps store competing seriously with Apple's app store is ludicrous).
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post #12 of 74
All the touch points in the world won't overcome poor implementation. If there is anything that Apple has proven it is that content is king. Based on the McMillan episode, I fear for the Kindle. Amazon found there success by being in the BOOK business, not the reader business.
post #13 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregoriusM View Post

Wow.

That's seems like the type of technology that Apple would have bought up pretty quickly, unless they already have similar technology at their disposal that they haven't shown yet in their products.

The Newton used a resistive touch screen. I hope the Touchco folks have really improved it. I'd still be using my Newton if the resistive touch screen hadn't worn out.

As you can imagine, I'm looking forward to an iPad. To bad it won't have handwriting recognition :-)
post #14 of 74
...and so began the book wars

lol just wanted to say that, sounds like awesome technology but its gonna die before it even gets out if apple has enough ipads out before amazon even announces a device with this technology, way I see it amazon doesnt have a fighting chance against app/book/itunes stores on the device plus all the extra features such as safari etc etc, only way to fight back is really really really competitive pricing

same reason that people who buy a new computer buy a pc vs a mac 90% of the time its because the pc is cheaper, not based on features or aethetics(probably mispelled), only way people would prefer such an implementation would have to be undianiably better pricing, im talking 10 inch 200-300 with the touch screen, only way i see amazon winning this one coming from behind
post #15 of 74
No one was even talking about the Kindle until the iPad was announced. It has existed for a couple years now but it's already seen as the cheap iPad rip off to many
post #16 of 74
Amazon has operations in CA?! How can they not charge sales tax here then?
post #17 of 74
I know lots of people love the idea of a stylus but I think it's bygone technology. Multitouch is very cool but can get overly complicated (like a five or seven button mouse), so I see little value in the ability to use limitless touch points.
post #18 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by city View Post

Consider the weather. It's currently sunny and in the 60ºs.

I like the weather too. My point was that if a person with expertise in touch interface hardware was going to move across the country, they might prefer to work for a company with great potential for professional advancement and longevity in the chosen field, rather than a company for which building hardware is a minor part of the business with a questionable future.
post #19 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregoriusM View Post

Wow.

That's seems like the type of technology that Apple would have bought up pretty quickly, unless they already have similar technology at their disposal that they haven't shown yet in their products.

Quite likely Apple sniffed, passed, and is already years into developing the next generation of touch technology

On the other hand, this seems awfully late for Amazon to be thinking about this...
post #20 of 74
Is it the number of addressable points or the touch resistance technology that is of more interest?
post #21 of 74
*cough* grasping at straws *cough*
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post #22 of 74
Depending on how much they paid, it could be a good acquisition.

I really don't see iPad and the Kindle in direct competition. It's more like Kindle and iBooks in direct competition. And on this front, Kindle is strong. Kindle fans tend to be as obsessive about e-ink as Apple fans tend to be about the 'experience'. That's exactly what the Kindle offers to avid readers. A more book reading type experience. A person who spends $489 on a Kindle DX is not likely to be the type of person who will want to read an e-book on a 1.5 pound computer with a glossy screen (though he might get an iPad to watch movies and surf the web when he travels). And they probably aren't going to be all that interested in spending $130 more for the device + $30/mo in data charges with limited global roaming functionality just to get access to content. That's not to say the iPad won't outsell the Kindle. It will. General devices always sell out niche devices. But I am sceptical that iBooks will outsell the Kindle store.

What Amazon should be doing is plotting a price drop. Both Kindles were ridiculously priced to begin with. The Kindle 2 should be under $100. And the Kindle DX should be under $200.

And as far as technology goes...before worrying about touch-screens (which aren't really all that necessary on an e-reader), colour should be a priority.
post #23 of 74
Very interesting developments, that is certain.

First Google showed a sketch of a possible tablet, now this news from Amazon. But I believe that Apple's ecosystem and the pioneering ideas behind the iPad will work out in favor of Apple. That is not to say that the other tablets may not sell well.

By the way, of both mentioned "competitors", I fear Google the most. It more and more looks that they are copying Apple's success formula by bringing the hardware under their control so as to match it closely to their software. And the scope of their software is growing at a fast pace from OS to browser to Android.
post #24 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by bedouin View Post

No one was even talking about the Kindle until the iPad was announced. It has existed for a couple years now but it's already seen as the cheap iPad rip off to many

That is completely wrong. No one had heard of the Sony ebook readers (which I think were already on Gen3 when the Kindle first came out). However, Amazon has done a great job of raising public awareness of ebook readers and the Kindle. No one thinks the Kindle is an iPad rip-off.

There is also an incorrect assumption here that Amazon is only competing against the iPad. There are already multiple ebook readers such as the nook and the Sony devices and the competition already has touch screens. At CES last month, everyone seemed to be launching their own ebook reader. Amazon has lots of competition.

The iPad will not kill off dedicated ebook readers, just like the iPod touch has not killed off the dedicated mp3 player (Apple still sells a lot of iPod Nanos and shuffles). E-book readers start at $199 and e-ink is supposed to be superior if all you want to do is read.
post #25 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

I call this throwing good money after bad. This is just complete and utter folly for Amazon to think that they can compete against Apple in hardware.

I have a Kindle and enjoy using it. It has given me 2-ish good years of solid use, is easy on the eyes when reading for a long time and pretty much just works as advertised. I look forward to trying out an iPad at the Apple store when they are released but even if I do end up getting one (after my experience buying a first gen iPhone, I will wait till at least v2 of the iPad), I will still hold onto the Kindle and probably stick with it for reading (unless the iPad excels at reducing eye fatigue as a book reader and allows me to make notes in the books and save those notes on my computer for future reference).
post #26 of 74


Now this is what I thought the iPad was going to look like. - something truly revolutionary, a real fold up, roll up digital paper.
Good for us consumers- competition is truly a good thing.
post #27 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jetz View Post


And as far as technology goes...before worrying about touch-screens (which aren't really all that necessary on an e-reader), colour should be a priority.

I would say that even before color, e-ink has to speed up its refresh rates to be a genuinely satisfying experience. A black and white Kindle with LCD refresh speeds would be a marvel. Unfortunately, I don't think that's something Amazon can fix by throwing money at it, unless there's some other startup somewhere with truly breakthrough tech.

As for the acquisition at hand, I dunno. It's like Amazon went "Competition! We better buy something!" But I can't see where cheap, flexible, limitless multitouch screen overlays are all that helpful for a pure E-book play. Are you going to be putting 10 fingers on the pages of your book to do something interesting? Are they planning curved screen Kindles? The only part that seems congruent with Amazon's current business is "cheap", but I can't imagine that the differential on one component is so great that it would lead big savings, per unit. But maybe it does. Maybe that's all they wanted, cheap multitouch screens.

I think Amazon would be better off investing in a software company. I don't think anyone thinks the Kindle OS is any kind of triumph, or anything, it's just sort of there and more or less gets the (limited) job done. If they do intend to incorporated multitouch into the Kindle or its successors, they really need to have a nice UI and OS to make it all hang together.
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post #28 of 74
Why did Amazon actually buy Touchco and its technology? Amazon could have just licensed their tech or just bought their microcontrollers. Does not make sense to me. Actually I think Amazon bought a pig and a poke. Their are better resistive multi-touch technologies available, why would they hitch their wagon to just one.
post #29 of 74
this small firm with that awesome(?) technology could have been interesting for those iPhone-competitors that can't offer multitouch-interface. Why didn't they get this before amazon? Palm, REM, MS, Samsung etc.
if this is so awesome... are these 6 people really as cool as Amazon says?
post #30 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by macmondo View Post

this small firm with that awesome(?) technology could have been interesting for those iPhone-competitors that can't offer multitouch-interface. Why didn't they get this before amazon? Palm, REM, MS, Samsung etc.
if this is so awesome... are these 6 people really as cool as Amazon says?

As inexplicable as it is, I can't believe that Amazon doesn't have some reasonably astute people in house, and that they did due diligence in evaluating this technology. I mean, I hope it wasn't a case of a couple of bright guys putting on a show and the Amazon execs going "Awesome! Let us write you a check!"
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post #31 of 74
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Originally Posted by Intense View Post

That is so interesting ... can't wait to see what amazon has in store

I can/will wait.
post #32 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Amazon has operations in CA?! How can they not charge sales tax here then?

My guess is because they're not retail operations.
post #33 of 74
If this was "holy crap amazing tech", it seems to me Touchco would have been better off by itself.

Could have made alot moer money than probably the relatively meager amount they got from Amazon.
post #34 of 74
Bezos runs a pretty good book distribution business, but he doesn't have an original bone in his body.

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post #35 of 74
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Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

Who says Apple's touch screen cannot detect unlimited touch points? We only have 10 fingers!

Yeas I had a double take at that ... Amazon's lets you use all ten and ...??
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post #36 of 74
GIven they need an OS too to do anything of real interest I wonder if Google might partner with them to take on Apple?
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post #37 of 74
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Originally Posted by addabox View Post

As inexplicable as it is, I can't believe that Amazon doesn't have some reasonably astute people in house, and that they did due diligence in evaluating this technology. I mean, I hope it wasn't a case of a couple of bright guys putting on a show and the Amazon execs going "Awesome! Let us write you a check!"

That does happen. However assuming they did think it through they now need an OS ... as I said before, Google may get involved here.
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post #38 of 74
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Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

GIven they need an OS too to do anything of real interest I wonder if Google might partner with them to take on Apple?

Google is too busy trying to scan every book ever written. Amazon has nothing to offer Google.

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post #39 of 74
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Originally Posted by randyhyde@me.com View Post

The Newton used a resistive touch screen. I hope the Touchco folks have really improved it. I'd still be using my Newton if the resistive touch screen hadn't worn out.

As you can imagine, I'm looking forward to an iPad. To bad it won't have handwriting recognition :-)

Good that you can still write! I can barely scrawl my signature after 30 years on a keyboard.
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post #40 of 74
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Originally Posted by John.B View Post

Google is too busy trying to scan every book ever written. Amazon has nothing to offer Google.

An operating system maybe? Oh sorry I am lysdexic. Yes I see what you mean. Google could do this without Amazon. Gotchya.
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