Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Could iRex Be the Company Making News Corp.’s Kindle? Mmmmmaybe.

rupert-murdochThank you, MediaMemo readers! After News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch mentioned his plan to invest in a company that produced e-book readers, I wondered who he might be talking to, and asked for your thoughts.

And you weren’t shy! And by the time I was done tallying your crowd-sourced tips, I had a pretty comprehensive list of everyone who plans to make, or is rumored to be making, a competitor to Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle. But many of you were sure that News Corp. (NWS) must be talking to iRex Technologies, the Dutch company that is already producing a line of Kindle rivals under the “Iliad” brand.

And you were correct, says iRex CEO Hans Brons. iRex plans to sell its devices in the U.S. using a “private label” strategy–it will make the readers but sell them under someone else’s brand–and it has talked to News Corp. about the possibility, he says.

But to be clear, Brons isn’t saying his company has a deal with News Corp. (which owns Dow Jones, the owner of this Web site). For the record: “It is definitely a logical path, and a logical conclusion, but I cannot confirm that we are working with News Corp.,” he says.

Fair enough. And no comment from News Corp. But imagine that iRex did end up building something for Murdoch and company. What would it look like?

A lot like the one Murdoch described earlier this month: iRex has a machine in the pipeline that will feature a big screen and full color, Brons said. The difference between his color screen and those of his competitors? Most of the latter take the e-Ink technology that powers the Kindle and Sony’s (SNE) Reader and add a color filter on top of that. That reduces the brightness of the screen, Brons said. But he promises that the iRex color screen, which he hopes will be on the market in 2010, will solve that problem.

And if News Corp. doesn’t do a deal with iRex? Well, as I mentioned above, there is no shortage of folks working on would-be Kindle killers. Thanks again to readers who helped me round up this list:

Fujitsu–Already selling an e-reader with color e-paper

Bridgestone–Also has a color display

Endless Ideas–Dutch company behind the black-and-white BeBook reader

Samsung–Its Papyrus reader features a touchscreen

Pixel Qi–Start-up focused on making cheap color screens; run by Mary Lou Jepsen, former CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project

Anyone else I should be looking at? Let me know.


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