Marvell, a California based semiconductor and microprocessor producer, has entered into an agreement with E Ink, the producer of electronic paper display screens for all the major digital reading devices, to produce a new generation of integrated processors designed to both reduce the price and improve computing performance in a wave of new e-ink screen reading devices slated to hit the market over the next year.

The two companies have partnered to produce the Armada series of integrated processor technology, combining Marvell’s semiconductor expertise with E Ink’s proprietary display technology to make processors they claim will provide faster screen refresh rates, better power management, and integration of services like wireless and 3G connectivity. According to a spokesperson for Marvell, the company is a pioneer in providing processors for digital readers; its processors were used in the original Kindle reader.

“Our partnership with Marvell will deliver an integrated System-on-a-Chip solution to the market,” said Sriram Peruvemba, v-p of marketing at E Ink, “offering highly desired features at competitive price points.”

Conventional e-readers have two microprocessors, a Marvell spokesperson explained in a phone interview, including a main processor in addition to a separate processor that governs the device’s e-ink screen. Marvell’s new Armada series is said to integrate the two processors into one component, making the new integrated component “cheaper and increasing its performance.” According to Marvell, the new integrated processor reduces the screen refresh rate from three seconds to less than a second and will eliminate the “blackout” effect when an e-ink page turns.

Marvell also claims that the new processor will allow for more flexible design, will reduce power demands so batteries last longer, and offers more efficient integration of critical functions like 3G and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. The Marvell spokesperson pointed to an impending “rapid release of new forms of e-readers at a variety of price points,” and claimed that Marvell technology will form the basis of a generation of new designs and functionality for e-ink screens and digital readers

Marvell cited a number of clients already using its technology, including Plastic Logic, a Barnes & Noble e-reading device partner that plans to use Marvell processors in its forthcoming e-reader, and enTourage Systems, which is releasing in February 2010 the enTourage eDGe, a unusual netbook-tablet with side by side 9.7" screens—a black & white e-ink screen for e-books and an LCD screen for normal computing and full-color Web browsing; the price will be about $490.

Marvell said it has also provided processing technology for the Alex Reader, the mysterious device unveiled about two weeks ago that looks very much like the Nook. Apparently Spring Design, the manufacturer of the Alex Reader, also noted the resemblance—although Marvell devices like the Alex Reader offer full-color Web browsing on the LCD screen, which the Nook does not. Spring Design has filed a lawsuit against Barnes & Noble claiming that it showed its device to the company, and B&N infringed on its intellectual property and violated an nondisclosure agreement by appropriating Alex’s dual-screen design. A B&N spokesperson said the company had not yet seen the suit.

Ms. Weili Dai, Marvell cofounder and v-p general manager of consumer and computing business, said the Marvell/E Ink partnership “raises the technology bar. This is a total platform solution—including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G modem, and power management. The Armada e-reader has the potential to deliver the first mass market product accessible and affordable to billions of consumers around the world."