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Rollup e-reader runs Linux

Jan 24, 2008 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

[Updated Jan. 25] — Philips spinoff Polymer Vision has announced plans to ship a Linux-capable e-reader with a flexible, rollup display. Thanks to the screen's low power consumption, the “Readius” offers up to 30 hours of reading without a battery charge, according to the company.

(Click here for a larger view of the Readius)

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The Readius is similar to the Linux-based Amazon Kindle in that it combines a screen optimized for reading with the ability to download content via a cellular modem. Unlike the Kindle, the tri-band Readius is compatible with HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) service, and can be used as a cell phone worldwide.

Its key attribute, though, is its five-inch monochrome display, which, according to the company, offers high contrast and reflectivity, 16 grayscales, and twice the surface area of the largest conventional mobile phone display. When not being used, the screen rolls up into a package that, at just 4.5 x 2.5 x .8 inches (115 x 57 x 21mm), is as small as an average mobile phone.

The Readius half open (left) and fully open (right)
(Click either to enlarge)

According to Polymer Vision, the Readius can use digital rights management (DRM) for content protection, but is also compatible with open formats such as ASCII text, HTML, and PDF. It will also include email software, an RSS reader, and an audio player. A Web browser is not included, however, likely because of the low refresh rate inherent in “e-paper” displays. Even scrolling text taxes the e-paper refresh rates at this point in their development.

As noted, phone calls can also be made, though the device's eight hardware buttons do not include a numeric keypad. Polymer Vision says calls can be made from a contact list, transferred from a PC via ActiveSync and the device's USB port.

Other hardware features include an unspecified ARM11-based processor clocked at 400MHz, Bluetooth 2.0, and a SD expansion slot. The Readius weighs just four ounces (115g), according to the company.

A Readius demo from a year ago
(Click to play)

When the Readius first debuted, it was shown running Linux, as in the video above. However, the version distributed by Telecom Italia debuts initially with Windows CE. Thus, the device appears capable of running both/either OS.


Polymer Vision says the Readius will be available in mid-2008, initially in Italy from Telecom Italia. Pricing is said to be comparable to a high-end smartphone.

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