Main Features / Overview
The ILiad from iRex Technologies is part of a new trend towards electronic devices dedicated to being a means to not only read electronic books, but to take notes on or make sketches etc. Gone are power hungry LCD panels, and they are replaced with the new ultra-low energy consuming "E-Ink" displays that look, when showing text, more like an actual sheet of paper than previous LCD technologies. Furthermore, the iLiad employs a special touch pen from WACOM that offers great precision and responsiveness for users than conventional 4-wire resistive touch screen technology.
The iLiad, and others of it's kind may well not only replace books in the future of students everywhere, but may also be the notepad of the future, as it's functionality has a similar look and feel to a paper-based notepad.
This new display technology is so low-energy, that unlike laptops or other mobile devices with backlighting, that the battery autonomy is exceptional (the iRex website claims up to 15 hours on a charge). Also - unlike other screen technologies, when a static image is on the screen, it is not consuming energy. If the screen does need to be refreshed and no other actions are taken by the user, a static image of the page can remain there without the need for constant current (power consumption) to the screen to maintain the image. This cannot be done with a PDA or laptop.
Numerous - professional usage (industry, medical, etc.), but also mainstream consumers such as students. This is a technology that is creating a niche for itself - so it is looking for a market. However, given the steep pricetag at the time of writing (see below), the current target would have to be almost strictly professional users.
It was announced in early 2006 - exact release date unknown.
Pricing and Availability
$699 USD in the US market, or 649 Euros in Europe at the time of writing (3/08).
Based on the specialized and nascent nature of the product we are assuming manufacturing volumes, for the purposes of this analysis, at approximately 100,000 units per year over the course of an unmodified two-year manufacturing lifetime.
As a reminder, volume production assumptions are meant primarily to be used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially), and not necessarily as a market accurate estimate for a specific model. Our estimations are based on iSuppli market research and we derive rational estimates based on overall market shares of the manufacturer in question, as well as the number of products in a given portfolio and the relative popularity of certain lines of products.
iSuppli teardown pricing methodologies are best suited to high-volume production environments, where we excel at tracking the "bottom of the market" on worldwide pricing of many components. However, with newer products, especially those produced in very low volumes (i.e. <10K / year), our methodology has to be altered (significantly in many cases) to account for how these low volumes can affect the pricing reality that the client will face in such situations.
Furthermore, we know from experience, when dealing with low-volume projects such as this, that no matter how effectively the manufacturer can purchase much of the commoditized raw materials, because of the aforementioned disproportionate costs involved, they have to pass this on to the end customer in one form or another. This can take several forms. They can pass on the costs through a) Component markup, b) Elevated manufacturing costs, c) passing on many of the NRE and "one-time" charges directly to the end customer, and d) all of the above!
We are uncertain what combination of the above criteria, or to what extent they are being applied in this relationship but need to make clear that our analysis, while attempting to account for some of this, is unlikely to account for all of these additional costs, that in higher volume environments would be minor in their bottom line impact.
The EMS can essentially charge iRex Technologies almost "any price" for the manufacturing or components in this analysis, as they will obviously seek to maintain their profit integrity and pass on all of the diverse costs associated with low volume special projects such as this. We have strived, however, to reflect, where it makes sense, such as on commoditized components, to assume that the EMS provider will have relatively competitive pricing.
What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis
The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.
Function / Performance
No performance testing was performed on the ILiad ebook reader, as it was already destructively torn down when we received it.
EMS Provider Unknown
Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions
As with all computer systems, this system has a number of various sub-assemblies built in various countries - see the "Overview" section on the online presentation for a list of countries of origin for the major sub-assemblies such as display, WLAN module, WACOM touch digitizer, etc. As for final assembly - the product is assembled in the Philippines (see "Overview" for more info) however, it is assumed, when not otherwise labeled, that all other unlabeled components were also produced locally in the Philippines, though some may also be imported from other low (or high) cost countries such as China.
Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of "finished" sub-assemblies (such as chargers), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.
The iRex Technologies ILiad eBook reader is relatively modular in nature and consists of a number of modular turn-key solutions from third party vendors, such as the digitizer from WACOM and the 802.11 module from USI. Other than these "modules" the design consists of a main PCB a display driver / graphics processing board (iRex's design), and a "power supply" module, which is actually power management circuitry for the two internal battery cells.
Because of the number of discrete assemblies, and the choice of the active digitizer solution (rather than a more conventional touchscreen) the iLiad turned out to be a little more complex internally than expected. This translates into additional costs at several different levels - design costs, part and assembly management costs, BOM maintenance costs, but also assembly times and yields.
Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.
At a high level one can break the design along the following system-level components
Display (E Ink)
Display PCB (iRex Tech. Design - this provides graphics processing and control circuitry)
Touchscreen/Digitizer (This is a turn-key solution from WACOM that consists of 3 main sub-assemblies)
Sensor Board - this provides the sensing substrate under the display
Touchscreen/Digitizer Control Board - this controls and drives the sensor board and processes it's feedback
Touchscreen/Digitizer Pen - A passive pen that interacts with the active resonant field created by the sensor board
WLAN Module (from USI (Universal Scientific Industrial) - based on Marvell chipset)
Main PCB / Motherboard
Power Supply PCB (power conversion and charging control circuitry for the internal two battery cells)
Two 1250 mAH Battery Cells (Amperex Technology Limited - ATL Battery)
Here is a summary of all of the main sub-assemblies within the iRex iLiad and the major components found with each of them:
Main PCB / Motherboard
Processor - (XSCALE) - Intel - LUPXA255A0C400 - Microprocessor - Xscale, 32-Bit, RISC, w. ARN v.5TE
"CoolRunner" - Xilinx - XCR3064XL-10VQG100I- CPLD - 64 Macrocell, 3.3V, 68 User I/O Pins
Samsung Semiconductor - K4S561633F-ZL75 - SDRAM - 256Mb (4M x 16Bit x 4Banks), 3.0V, CL=3 & 133MHz
M-Systems- MD4331-D1g-V3Q18-XP - Flash Disk-On-Chip - MLC, 128M, 3V, 55ns
NXP Semiconductors - ISP1362BD - USB On-the-Go Transceiver - USB2.0
NXP Semiconductors - UCB1400BE - Codec - Stereo Audio, AC'97 2.1
SMSC - LAN91C111-NU - Ethernet Controller - Single Chip Solution, 100BASE-TX/10BASE-T, MAC & PHY, 2-Port LED Support, 3.3V
iRex Technologies - 220C600XBG101
DAC - Analog Devices - AD5315BRMZ - 10-Bit, 2-Wire Interface, Quad Voltage Output, 500uA
SRAM- Samsung Semiconductor - K6F4016U6G-EF55 - - 4Mb (256K x 16 bit), 3V, 55ns (Qty: 2)
Flash - NOR - Spansion - S29AL032D70BFI03 - 32Mb, 3V, 70ns
Touch Digitizer - Control Board (SU-0802E-01X)
Touch Digitizer Processor/Controller - Wacom - W8001
Microcomputer - Matsushita - MN101CF91D - 8-Bit, Single Chip, 64KB ROM, 4KB RAM
WLAN Module - USI (Universal Scientific Industrial) - WM-G-MR -01
88W8365-BDK1 - WLAN Baseband - 802.11a/b/g, ARM9 Core, 0.15um CMOS Process
88W8015-NXA1- WLAN RF Transceiver - 802.11b/g, 2.4GHz, Integrated PAM, 0.25um SiGe Process
Power Supply PCB
Gas Gauge IC - Texas Instruments - BQ2060A - Support for Multi-Chemistry Batteries, SBS v1.1 Compliant, w/ 5 LED Drivers
Battery Protection IC - Seiko - S-8232xxFT-T2-G