Could Bridgestone Gadget Help Explain Formula 1 Exit?

Negative CamberCorrespondent INovember 3, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 26:  Bridgestone slick tyres are seen in the paddock during previews to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 26, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Just days before its shocking announcement that Bridgestone would leave Formula 1 after the 2010 season, the tire manufacturer had unveiled a flexible “e-reader”—the first-ever such prototype that can bend.

Could that release provide any signal about why the manufacturer plans to leave F1?

It is nearly impossible to say. As both Todd and I have noted, there has been scant information or reaction since Bridgestone’s announcement. The teams have been quiet. The drivers have been silent. Even Formula 1’s official release was pretty thin.

This seems like the type of story that could use a positive bit of spin by the PR department. So far, fans are being left in a vacuum—and that violates about every rule of public relations.

And so we are left searching for answers. So far, this is other recent Bridgestone news that appears. Is there a connection?

The Bridgestone e-reader news can be found at CrunchGear .

Here is the wrap-up:

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Tire maker Bridgestone isn’t the first company that comes to mind when thinking about electronic paper, but the company has been experimenting in this field for quite some time now. Today, Bridgestone claimed that it has developed the world’s first flexible e-book reader [JP]. The device … uses electronic paper (instead of, say, an LCD) and will display the content on the screen even after you turn it off.

Bridgestone says the prototype has a 10.7-inch-screen, is just 5.8mm thick (Kindle 2: 9.1mm) and can display color pages. The device can be bent to some extent since the circuit board and the electronic paper are flexible.

First tests with end consumers will begin in spring of next year, but Bridgestone already said it doesn’t plan to commercialize the e-book reader at this point.

The company also unveiled another device that features a 13.1-inch e-paper (touch screen) that can display up to 4,096 colors, communicate with cell phones and comes with a reaction rate of 0.8sec (that’s how long it takes to refresh a screen).

This certainly could be a lucrative market for Bridgestone; the bets now are this is where book, newspaper, magazine and even Internet readership is headed. But at the same time, the company surely wouldn’t change its basic production and market strategy. Bridgestone is a tire manufacturer, plain and simple.

But if the company was not seeing much value in being in Formula 1—as plenty of comments at F1B’s original story suggest due to the lack of a North American race, the single-supplier status and other reasons. Perhaps it does see that spending being more valueable elsewhere.

Perhaps it sees that value in surprisingly different products. It is no more of a stretch than BMW exiting F1 to focus on green technologies, after all.