Intel pastes second screen on prototype laptop

The laptop has a second e-ink screen to view news, images, Twitter feeds and notifications

Intel's prototype laptop with second e-ink screen

Intel's prototype laptop with second e-ink screen

Forget laptop stickers: Intel's pasted a second screen on a prototype laptop it showed at its annual developer conference.

The laptop had a regular screen on one side of the display panel and a gray scale e-ink screen on the other. When it was shut, the e-ink screen could serve as an electronic sticker to read e-books, images, text messages or news .

The laptop was shown at the Intel Developer Forum being held in San Francisco.

"You know how people like bumper stickers on the outside of their laptop. The first idea was just being able to take any image from your hard drive and just post that on the screen," said Taylor Courier, an Intel researcher.

It is possible to post webcam pictures directly on the e-ink screen, Courier said.

But the e-ink screen can do more than just show pictures. People can view news and weather feeds from the Internet even when the laptop is in hibernation mode. A Windows laptop operates at a very low power level when in hibernation -- a state called "connected standby" mode -- so the e-ink screen will continue to receive data as the Internet connection remains on.

E-books based on the ePub format can also be loaded on the e-ink screen when the laptop is hibernating. Users can also send messages to other laptops with e-ink screens.

"I think it would be useful. We're positioning it to extend the usage of laptops. You can do more things," Courier said.

But two-screen laptops historically have not caught on. Toshiba's Libretto W105-L251, which shipped in 2010, had a second display that could also function as a virtual keyboard. Asus' Taichi 21, which shipped in 2012, had color screens on either side of a display panel. Both products were novel, but flopped.

The e-ink screen on the Intel's laptop is conceptually closer to Samsung's flexible Galaxy Note Edge smartphone, where the curved second screen is used to view Twitter messages, news feeds, notifications and text messages.

The e-ink screen could hike the price of a laptop.

"Yes, there would be a small increase in cost, but we think it would be acceptable for the increased experiences and usages," Courier said.

Intel could make this technology available in PCs next year. Intel will ship reference two-screen laptops with chips based on the upcoming Skylake architecture, which is due to reach PCs in the second half of next year. Intel will also provide a software development kit so customized applications can be written to take advantage of e-ink screens.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

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