Amazon May Buy Unique Samsung Division for Less than $100 Million
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is reportedly interested in buying Liquavista BV (a company that develops a special kind of display technology for e-readers) from Samsung.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung could sell the company -- which it purchased two years ago -- for less than $100 million.
This report comes after e-reader blogger Nate Hoffelder speculated that Amazon would buy Liquavista from Samsung. Hoffelder didn't have any proof when he first talked about the acquisition in January, but he looked at various techniques that Amazon has previously used to disguise its plans.
Based on that and a registration for a mysterious Amazon development center in the Netherlands that Hoffelder uncovered, he concluded that the company planned to buy all or part of Liquavista, which is based in the Netherlands.
Liquavista is famous for inventing a new kind of color e-reader display that can work with or without a backlight. The screens use a technology called electrowetting, which involves "modifying the surface tension of liquids on a solid surface using a voltage."
"By applying a voltage, the wetting properties of a hydrophobic surface can be modified and the surface becomes increasingly hydrophilic (wettable)," the company explained on its website.
By acquiring Liquavista, Amazon would be able to build color e-readers that have far greater battery life than is currently possible with LCD (liquid crystal display) displays. According to the BBC, the technology could allow for devices to be built that run for several days before needing a charge.
Liquavista, which was founded in 2006, has been slow to bring its technology to market. In fact, Hoffelder said that the company has not released a single product since Samsung acquired the firm in 2011. This would explain why the South Korean tech giant is interested in selling the firm.
It does not, however, explain why Amazon is interested in making the acquisition.
Last fall, iSuppli released a report about the decline of e-reader sales. iSuppli researchers estimated that as consumers continue to buy tablets (which can do so much more than an e-reader), they will be less likely to buy a device that is only for reading.
Liquavista's existing screen technology is not as impressive as its power-draining competitor, LCD. If the industry is moving toward tablets, and if Amazon is eager to come along for the ride, why would it invest millions of dollars in Liquavista? Was the potential battery boost enough to persuade Amazon?
Possibly -- but there is likely more to it than that.
Liquavista has not shown off a new display since May 2011. At the time, the screen appeared to be a promising alternative to LCD, particularly for e-readers. Amazon may be interested in the progress that Liquavista has made since that time.
Amazon may also be interested in the prospects of a simple e-reader smartphone that could run for days without a charge. It may not be as advanced or as beautiful as the Galaxy S IV, but if it was a competent, fairly priced phone with record-breaking battery life, consumers would take notice.
Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ
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