SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chipmaker Marvell Technology Group Ltd on Monday jumped into the fast-growing electronic reader market, unveiling a platform that the company says will allow for a new generation of zippier, lower-cost devices.
Marvell said it has teamed up with E Ink, a developer of e-paper display technology, to create an integrated application processor. E-readers based on the technology are expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2010.
The first devices include the already announced enTourage Edge, a combination e-reader and netbook; the Alex reader from Spring Design, and an offering from Plastic Logic.
Marvell’s platform is based on its new Armada family of processors, announced last month. Marvell makes a wide array of chips — including those used for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular connectivity — that the company said allows it to offer the complete chip solution e-reader makers need.
The company is also partnering with FirstPaper, which is backed by media giant Hearst Corp, for content and graphics technology.
Weili Dai, Marvell’s co-founder and general manager of its consumer and computing business unit, estimated the entry level price point of a e-reader based on the Marvell platform at roughly $150 — cheaper than devices currently on the market, which range upward from $199.
“We always envisioned that the e-book was going to be a very big, important segment,” she said, with applications in consumer, business, education and health customers.
The company said its technology will also allow for faster page loads of less than one second.
The e-reader market has exploded this year. Besides the Kindle from market leader Amazon.com Inc and Sony Corp’s Reader, Barnes & Noble Inc recently unveiled the Nook.
Roughly 3 million e-readers are expected to be sold in the United States this year, with sales doubling in 2010, according to Forrester Research.
Prices for e-readers are already coming down as new competitors enter the market.
Other devices include Interead’s “Cool-er” and the Cybook OPUS from Bookeen, with new e-readers expected from iRex Technologies, a spin-off of Royal Philips Electronics, and Taiwan’s Asustek.
Editing by Steve Orlofsky