E Ink's Ryosuke Kuwata (photo by Katsumi Kurihara)
E Ink's Ryosuke Kuwata (photo by Katsumi Kurihara)
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"In the field of electronic paper-based electronic newspapers, a verification test will start by the end of 2008, and an actual business will start in the second half of 2009."

Ryosuke Kuwata, E Ink Corp's vice president in charge of the Asia Pacific region, who is conducting market development for the company, revealed the worldwide advancement of the electronic newspaper project that newspaper companies are pursuing. (interviewer: Takuya Otani).

Q: What fields is E Ink currently focusing on as new applications of electronic paper following electronic books?

Kuwata: I think newspaper is the field that we are focusing on. I mean electronic newspapers that use electronic paper. Newspaper companies have made significant moves over the past year.

In fact, we have already been in touch with most of the major newspaper companies in Japan. We are likely to focus on the application for electronic newspaper for a while, reinforcing our support and other services.

Off course, Japanese newspaper companies are not the only ones that are making moves. First of all, US newspaper companies began to address electronic newspapers earlier than Japanese counterparts, as you know.

Hearst Corp, for example, is advancing specific discussion on electronic newspapers. Although it is not well-known, Hearst is investing quite a bit in E Ink. I guess that is because Hearst is also focusing on the electronic newspaper business.

I think it's more accurate to say that such moves in the US have recently traveled to newspaper companies in Japan and Europe. In Europe, for example, companies including Le Monde of France have just began to move.

Q: When are electronic newspapers likely to emerge in the market? And what terminals and services will they be like?

Kuwata: At the current moment, the newspaper company that is furthest ahead is expected to start a verification test using several thousands of terminals by the end of 2008. After the test, the company will gradually shift to a specific business in the second half of 2009, I expect.

As for the form of terminals and services, each newspaper company is considering it in accordance with its own policy. Hearst, for example, is attempting not only to supply content but also to develop its own terminal in house.

European newspaper companies, on the other hand, seem to be considering using existing terminals or contracting them out to OEM suppliers, based on their strong intention to focus on supplying content. Attitudes vary at each company.