At the end of 2019, it does appear that the future will arrive in 2020-2021. By this we mean that color eInk, and fast refresh rates that support video, will arrive in consumer devices.
eNote Devices and Color eInk
It appears that the burgeoning eNote devices are the target market for a new color eInk paper product by E Ink and Wacom. It is unclear if this is the same product (without the digitizer interface) that has already been shipping to suppliers. It seems that it is really a marketing deal with a combined product.
While for me the ebook reader is even more compelling (gets greater use) than a tablet/mobile device form factor (though less than a full desktop computer), this is not something most people feel a need for. The tablet market is shrinking, and mobile phones are getting larger and larger (metastasizing).
Obviously for book readers, a dedicated eInk eReader device is important. For now, it seems that the eNote devices, in 7.8", 10.3", and 13.3", are to some extent taking on the tablet, and some extent taking on the eReader markets. They are of course doing this by being better in a specific niche (reading and note-taking) than the current batch of tablets and eReaders.
Upcoming Refresh Rate Changes in E-ink
The Boox Note 2 which will be available in November 2019, has a variety of refresh rates and support for Android 9. The refresh rates are very interesting, allowing for a variety of uses:
The Note 2 will have an all new refresh system. This will allow one to watch Youtube videos, stream music or podcasts or do many things online, that typically you wouldn’t be able to do with other e-readers. There are a few modes you need to be aware of. Normal mode is the default e-reading experience or viewing PDF files. Speed Mode provides a little bit more ghosting and is designed for rapidly viewing pictures, this is ideal if you are browsing the internet via Chrome or Firefox. A2 mode which seriously degrades image quality and is only ideal for content with a ton of images. X-Mode is also a new feature, it was designed for watching Youtube videos, it actually performs really well. There are other options here for adjusting global contrast or set the page turn speed.
It remains to be seen whether this is compelling enough in its differences to compete directly with standard tablet and phablets with active backlit screens. Also, the price points are likely not competitive. Longer battery life, better readability, and digital stylus overlay technology will mean a better tablet for reading and note-taking, but likely not a better ipad (though honestly who cares about that). Also, the convertible market is large and growing and how much of that accounts for a lack of dedicated tablet market shrinkage? For example, an Asus C101PA is a chromebook, laptop, netbook, convertible, and tablet all in one. Which market is it in? The same goes for the various popular Microsoft Surface devices. With the exception of Surface Studio (a desktop model), all 8 of the other Surface devices are tablets (in addition to being other kinds of devices as well).