Archive for September, 2011
At the first annual e-Readers conference in San Francisco, we met up with Kurt Petersdorff the Commercial Director of Liquavista! During the conference he gave us an interview and talked about the future of Liquavista technology and how his company was effected with the Samsung investment in his company earlier this year.
The essence of Electrowetting technology is that it is highly scalable as the e-reader and tablet market has gravitated from small screens to displays exceeding 10 inches. From a manufacturing point of view, it is easy for existing LCD plants to incorporate Electrowetting into its process. It is basically the same entire procedure to create the screen, except instead of using Liquid Crystals they use a different fill. One of the huge benefits of Liquavista technology is that it is flexible, which means it is a much more robust surface. This is much akin to the same type of display that Plastic Logic uses in their new e-reader and there is a famous video online of two guys hitting each other over the head with it and the glass not breaking. If you ever have dropped an iPad or a iPhone you know the LCD glass breaks rather easily because it is NOT FLEXIBLE.
The below video outlines the full presentation Kurt made at the conference and I got a chance to talk to him about their relationship with Freescale and exactly what happened with the e-reader they had a prototype for. We then find out about their greyscale technology and color offerings. We also get a surprise conversation with Mirasol and Liquavista.
Zinio is one of the most successful online digital magazine companies in the world! We caught up with Matthew Davis the VP of User Experience at the recent E-Reader Conference in San Francisco! At Zinio Matthew is principally charged with evolving the utility, form and beauty of Zinio’s international newsstand and bookstore. Matthew served at Zinio from almost the very beginning and was instrumental in the inaugural iPad launch that substantiated the company and thrust it into the limelight.
Zinio is one of the preimier magazine companies and they have relationships with some of the largest companies such as Conde Nast. The success of Zinio is attributed to the sheer amount of iPad sales which propelled the app into the top selling news app on the App Market. The entire time is passionate about the art form of the magazine and Matthew has been a fan of magazines and used to decorate his walls with clippings from old skate zines.
Before the iPad launch the company had a few early prototypes of the tablet that were chained to the desk and surrounded by indestructible glass to protect them and prevent theft. The challenge facing the company in February 2010, six weeks before the iPad launch was to build a fully functioning app, port over 2400 titles and make 7 of them flagship quality. The initial team of 24 people had their work cut out for them and the entire team lived in a small office for the duration of the entire six weeks.
Some of the early challenges the company faced was a common language barrier so the programmers could understand the designers and everyone could be on the same page. There is a deep lexicon of jargon in both the magazine and publishing world and it was a challenge getting everyone to speak the same language. After this process they had to laugh at big companies and publishers such as Wired where the coders and designers have never even spoke before.
Designing the application was fraught with challenges because it was a new frontier and the entire gesture system had to be done from scratch but also be intuitive and beautiful. There was a new paradigm with touchscreen navigation with both portrait and landscape mode. Some magazines wanted different ways to scroll through the magazine. For example for Wired they wanted to scroll down to go through different pages within the same article and to gesture left and right to go through the different articles.
During the conference speech Matthew talked about some of the challenges the company has faced during the entire iPad process and how it has changed the company. They went from a small design firm to having 2 major company headquarters in North America and Satellite sales offices all over the world.
During the e-Readers 20111 Conference in San Francisco we met with Cheryl Goodman, a self-proclaimed surfer girl from San Jose! Cheryl is the Senior Director of Publisher Relations at Qualcomm. In this role she is responsible for forging connections in the publishing industry. Primarily she is trying to secure content for a new breed of Mirasol based technologies.
She gave an overview of what Qualcomm was doing with Mirasol based screen technology and gave a general overview of what it is all about. She went on to give us some great indications on how it looks on e-readers and tablets! She finished with giving us a timeline on when the first Mirasol based devices are going to hit the market in 2011.
Americans Love E-Readers which creates a global trend
• Distinct markets for e-readers, tablets – Just as Video didn’t kill TV, tablets won’t kill e-readers
• US adult e-reader purchases doubled (Pew) – a trend that is projected to continue.
• All devices will be connected, content is key but publishers must retrofit to the new medium and manage the sustainable of their strategic digital bets ( apps development, revenue sharing with digital partners with broad channels)
• It’s a Reading Revolution! Digital Books sale are up
%60 says the Korea Publisher Association – reconfirming
the global trend.
During our conference trip in San Francisco we befriended an excellent chap from iSupply! He mentioned one of the ways his company determines the core price a product costs to manufacture and release is by a comprehensive tear down. The units are often disassembled and based on each component it can be researched down to the exact cost per component. Today iSupply issued a press release stating that the new Amazon Kindle Fire costs $209.63 to manufacture and entail ALL costs involved.
Amazon is releasing their first Android powered tablet dubbed ‘Fire’ and is set to sell millions of units from November to December. The most attractive aspect of the device is obviously the price point and hits the sweet spot for most customrs wanting a to buy a tablet. One of the drawbacks of the entire tablet sector are the prohibitive costs involved, with the T-Mobile G-Slate charging $799 and most others costing $499 to $899 for a good one.
Amazon is losing money on the hardware by selling its tablet for $199, taking a $10 hit loss on each one sold. The company is betting that it will make the money back in short order by selling content. Services such as Amazon Prime are bundled with the tablet and users are given a 1 month free subscription to check it out. This will provide shipping discounts with buying products from the website and offer streaming video services. Magazines, eBooks and an emerging Netflix-esque subscription system are other options.
Users of the Motorola XOOM tablet of the Wi-Fi only type are in for more treat than the OTA update to Android 3.2.1 that they received about a week ago. There is a whole new update that has been made available though all of it is about making things simple yet elegant at the Android Market. Also, this upgrade is something that has been talked about for quite some time now as the same has already been available for Android smartphone users while tablet users had to wait a bit longer.
So what is so special about the new updated Android Market? Well, it keeps tab of your preferences and arranges itself automatically as per your search and browsing pattern. Also that’s not all for all those apps that the user browsed is retained along with other details such as the price of items selected as also the account details. Also, it is but natural to expect that hackers would find a way to extend the features to all other Android tablets too.
XOOM users would be able to get the update by going to menu -> settings -> about tablet -> updates. However, and as has already been mentioned, there are no changes in the tablet’s performance or behavior as the latest update has to do with nothing but the way the Android Market behaves. The update will bring up the XOOM to build HTK75D. However, there is no way to make out if there are certain tablet enhancements included in the new update like bug fixes and so on.
Foxconn, Apple’s long term manufacturing partner had set up ambitious plans to manufacture the iPad tablet in Brazil though all of that seems to have come to a naught. The plant was supposed to be able to produce iPads in July 2011 though it was subsequently pushed back to November. Later, the schedule was revised once again to December but it now seems it has been pushed back forever. The reason being put forward for the plans to have turned sour are a breakdown in negotiations between Foxconn officials and Brazilian authorities. The size of the deal in numeric terms is a staggering $12 billion.
Brazilian officials though have put the blame on the Taiwanese company’s ‘crazy demands’ for the deal to fall through. Foxconn is reported to have sought tax breaks and is expecting special treatment in the South American country. Brazil’s custom department is notoriously slow and Foxconn has asked for priority treatment so as to speed things up a bit. Also, Brazil is already known for its high tax rates along with other factors such as an overvalued currency and a lack of skilled work force all of which combined against the manufacturing of the high tech iPad tablet PCs in that country.
“The talks have been very difficult, and the project for a Brazilian iPad is in doubt,” one official revealed to reuters before also adding, “(Foxconn) is making crazy demands” for tax breaks and other special treatment.
What Foxconn is demanding is being termed as way too complex for the Brazilians to handle as of now. For it entails the setting up of a new ‘intelligent city’ outside of Sao Paulo which would have the best of facilities such as top notch infrastructure, good connectivity along with its own energy source. Rule of the land requires Brazilians business partners to give shape to such ambitious and high value projects. However, the technology sector in Brazil lacks the financial depth to dole out the necessary funds to support a project of such magnitude. A possible way out is to either scale back the project’s scope or Brazil will have to shore up its resources.
“We’re dealing with a lot of issues, like the (Taiwanese) trying to figure out how to do business in Brazil … and Brazil figuring out how to produce these complicated products,” a second government official told Reuters.
“Maybe we will end up starting with something smaller.”
As an idea of the high import tax structure in Brazil, an iPad 2 tablet costs nearly $900 there which is almost twice that of the $500 that the same costs in the United States.
Close on the heels of the ZTE Smart Tab 7 appearing on the FCC scene, the Chinese company has now made it to the premier certification authority another of its tablet creation — the Smart Tab 10. With this, what also becomes evident is the that both of these Android based tablets will soon be seen doing the rounds in the American market though any sort of official confirmation towards this will clear the air further. What also needs to be confirmed is whether these are copies of the Smart Tab from Vodafone that have been slated for the European market. External looks point out to s=just such a scenario.
As for the tablets specifications, the Smart Tabs are based on 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processors that work in conjugation with a 1 GB RAM. Internal memory stands at 16 GB. The display supports resolutions of 1280 x 800 pixels and comes equipped with both front and rear facing cameras. The device runs on the Google Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS. For connectivity the tablet has support for Wi-Fi as well as 3G though its not yet clear who would be the official telecom partner.
Huawei had made headline this summer when it launched the MediaPad tablet PC which it describes as the best and finest piece of tablet hardware to come out of its gates. Now it seems the 7 inch MediaPad is all set to woo American tablet buyers with T-Mobile as the carrier partner.
However, neither Huawei nor T-Mobile is making any official noises about it and all of this is based on pure speculation that seems to be based on pure facts. Like the upcoming tablet device from T-Mobile bears a striking similarity with the Huawei MediaPad. So much that its perhaps safe to bet on the tablet being MediaPad itself. Maybe T-Mobile will re-brand the tablet before it is launched in the American market.
As for the tablet’s specifications, it is based on 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor and runs Android 3.2 Honeycomb. A 7 inch IPS display having a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels makes up the front of the tablet. On-board storage capacity is 16 GB while the battery is rated at 4100mAh.
Other physical characteristics of the device are that it weighs 0.86 pounds and is 0.41 inch thick. It has capability to playback 1080p HD Video and has an HDMI output to connect to a compatible device. The device boasts of GPS functionality as well though the US version of the device may differ slightly.
However, the real surprise of the entire package from T-Mobile might be its cost which as per TmoNews could be as low as just $200 after agreeing to a two year service contract. The price isn’t confirmed as yet though if that is what the tablet will come for then it could well turn out to be a real steal even if it means living with T-Mobile for two whole years. More so in light of the Amazon Fire that costs as much but lacks several tablet oriented features such a front and rear facing cameras. Also, the Huawei MediaPad is a 4G capable tablet.
However, while its not known when the MediaPad will shop up in America, sources at Huawei had earlier stated it would be nearly end of this year for that to happen. Huawei however is making available the tablet in Malaysia and India in October itself while its already on pre-order in Singapore for the equivalent of $473.
In a related development, Huawei has also announced buyers of its tablet PCs automatically qualify to 10 GB of free cloud storage.
“We plan to offer 10 GB cloud storage to buyers of our Vision and MediaPad devices. This storage can be used to sync contacts and store applications, apart from storing photos, music and videos,” revealed Anand Narang, marketing and solutions director at Huawei India.
However, its not known if that’s going to be offered to all buyers of the MediaPad anywhere in the world or is applicable to specific markets.
Sony has had their hands full with the impending launch of their new e-reader line to North American audiences with the Sony PRS-T1 line of e-readers. The company is quietly launching a new e-reader exclusive to Japan called the PRS-G1, which is a 3G version of it.
The Sony PRS-G1 is basically the PRS-T1 but with 3G internet access which will see a release in Japan starting in the middle of November. It features a 6 inch e-ink pearl display with IR touch and has a resolution of 800×600 pixels. It connects up to the Sony Reader store in Japan, giving customers the advantage of downloading books, magazines, manga, anime and more! The 3G network supported is CDMA2000 1X, CDMA2000 1x EV-DO Rev. 0/Rev. A Up to 1.8Mbps uplink 3.1Mbps / up to down. It also has WIFI in it as well.
I would not expect to see this reader have a release in the North American and Western European markets because of the difference in 3G standards. It would require a hardware modem overhaul in order to get the high speeds here and most customers are resistive to premium prices for a 3G connection. Recently Barnes and Noble suspended sales of their original Nook 3G, because customers were not purchasing them. Customer Research from iSupply and IDC have stated that most readers never even use the 3G options and most companies don’t even bother because the modem adds $20 to $30 to the OEM.
With all of the buzz—both positive and extremely negative—surrounding the large number of literary agents now exploring ebook-only titles for their author clients, a new level of credibility and respectability has come out in the form of a major publishing house expanding to release the digital rights to out-of-print and author-held rights’ books.
Bloomsbury Publishing, an independent publisher of fiction for children and adults, announced in May of this year that they would begin releasing digital titles of out-of-print works whose rights had reverted to the author or the author’s estate. Bloomsbury Reader debuted this month with an astounding 500 titles in its current catalog, with plans to expand exponentially.
A lot of the controversy regarding the publishing industry climbing into bed with the digital publishing world stems from the so-called conflict of interest in agents shopping books to publishers, or rather, not shopping books to other publishers now that they themselves have taken on the responsibility for converting the book to electronic reader and releasing it to the various ebook distribution platforms. One thing that agents have insisted again and again in the debates is that industry professionals with any kind of credible reputation for a high standard of ethics will always make the best decisions for their clients.
But who watches a publisher who decides to send a title straight to digital and print-on-demand, as Bloomsbury Reader will do? As many have stated, the reputation will speak for itself. In case anyone is not familiar with Bloomsbury’s reputation in the industry, the publishing house released a popular juvenile fiction series a few years ago about a boy wizard named Harry Potter. Perhaps if Bloomsbury had embraced digital sooner, those very titles would be available through the Reader instead of through the Pottermore website’s collaboration with Google Bookstore.
Interestingly, readers will still have access to Bloomsbury Readers’ titles through the U.S. and UK Amazon stores, despite announcing that the titles will be available in formats that are compatible with all devices. The current Bloomsbury Reader site redirects consumers to the Amazon page for each title.
Whether reading consumers think this is a sign that a major publisher is keeping up with the times or selling out remains to be debated across the blogs and message boards. The end result, for now, is that Bloomsbury Reader is resurrecting some out-of-print titles and making them available to a new audience in both digital and print-on-demand formats. That can’t be all bad.
We are at the first annual e-reader conference in San Francisco and we were privy to a round table discussion on eBooks with three stalwart gentlemen. Joining us is executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, Paul Michaelman. Also Mike Robinson the eBook Sales and Marketing Manager of Oxford University Press and finally Rob Burns Sr. Director Software Manager of Ebsco Publishing.
Today these fine men discuss a myriad of subjects pertaining to ebooks and the present state of digital publishing and what strategies the companies are employing to deliver the next generation of content.
The Kobo VOX is perhaps playing hide-n-seek with us, going by the e-reader / tablet’s unexpected appearance at the Canadian retailer Future Shop site only to be pulled up soon thereafter. However, the extremely short online stint was enough to let us have a glimpse of what to expect out of Kobo’s next offering in the fast maturing tablet / e-book reader segment.
Like there is some more details available of the tablet that we till now only knew will have a color 7 inch display and run the Android operating system. However, what we now know is that the VOX will have a display resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The tablet comes integrated with 512 MB RAM, 8 GB of internal memory and 802.11b/g/n WiFi but no 3G. There also is a microSD card slot in case you need more storage power while the built-in speaker will let you have a richer multimedia experience, as much as a single speaker is able to. There is a USB port and a headphone jack too though no microphone slot.
The price mentioned was $250 CAD which translates to $242 and would be hitting streets on the 17th of October, at least within Canadian shores.The tablet weighs a quite convenient 400 gms while battery life mentioned is about 6 hours. Needless to say, the latter aspect could have been better. File formats mentioned that the tablet will be compliant with include Adobe DRM, EPUB, and PDF.
Just last week we reported the Kobo Vox e-reader tablet making it to the FCC for the necessary certification process. Now, the tablet make’s its first online appearance which interestingly comes on a day after the Kindle launches it much awaited Fire tablet PC. Maybe its a way of letting prospective buyers know the Amazon Fire isn’t the only option in this segment and the Kobo VOX too should be there for consideration.
Also, let’s not forget none of the details mentioned above comes from the house of Kobo and till Kobo comes clean with the VOX formally, its still rumor or speculation in strict sense of the term.
Doug Klein originally cut his teeth working on old school terminals and communication systems before joining Barnes and Noble. Since joining the company and meeting with CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos 10 years before the Amazon Kindle was created and saw the tremendous growth of the Nook line of e-readers.
The Nook group at Barnes and Noble was top secret when it launched in 2009 and the department was built completely from scratch. It grew from 0 to 100 employees during the course of only 1 year and saw the release of the original Nook 3G. He mentioned that the Nook went from 0% to controlling 30% of the entire e-reader market and within six months the Nook had a million users.
Doug saw the entire e-reader sphere moving from mass market awareness to mass market consumption. If you look at the holiday season last year, sales went through the roof. This is why the company is paying attention to Amazons recent release of three new e-readers and a tablet and are prepapring their own offerings to be announced soon.
The Nook Color was the most successful product the company put forth to date and saw the entire paradigm of the of the color e-reading experience change. It moved from exclusively reading books to the rise and popularity of magazines. Barnes and Noble has been signing many publishing partners over the course of the last year and now offers 100’s of big name offerings.
Doug Klein said that mobile computing via e-readers and tablets are growing expodentially. He mentioned that Barnes and Noble sees 15% of all web traffic to BN.com coming from mobile devices and his IT department has said that it will increase to 60% over the course of the next few years.
He arbitrutes the success of the Nook line of e-readers and Nook Color primarly to the female demographic. This in turn due to sheer sales has made the line of devices the most successful Android driven device to date.
We asked him what were the key points of success with their business model and the Nook e-readers. He responded with proclaiming they are all about content discovery. “Bookstores are discovery engines, there is a reason why stores are laid out the way they are. With racks of magazines at the back to drive traffic through the store. From staff picks to our coffee shops and their exact positions are all meticulously thought out.
What about the recently announced Amazon Fire and the Nook Color? He said that the Fire is more about streaming services and Amazon Prime while Barnes and Noble is more focused on Magazines and programs like NookKids.