Welcome to another edition of the Good E-Reader week in review, where we cover the most important news on E-Reader, Slate and Tablet PC’s! This week was a very newsworthy week with some new product announcements, some mergers and acquisitions and more exciting news!
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IRiver, the South Korean maker of MP3 players, and who already have experience in the E-Reader market with their “Story” are teaming up with LG to bring to the market a new E-Reader to the USA market.
The IRiver story is mainly marketed in Europe and in some parts of Asia. It is known to be comparable to the Amazon Kindle 2, in that it has a full keyboard and is 6 inches. It also has 800×600 resolution and 8 levels of grey scale. On the aspect of format supportability, the IRiver once again offers ePub, PDF, TXT readability and is able to display DOC, PPT and XLS files as well. IRiver also supports JPEG, BMP and GIF format, something that will be liked by those who take pleasure in reading comics. This is much unlike the Kindle that is limited to be compatible with only those supported by amazon.com and the PDF file formats. It sells in Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China and Russia for around $299.
IRiver and LG Display plan to set up the $5 million joint venture, to be called L&I Electronic Technology, in Dongguan, in China’s Guangdong province, by August, with a 51% equity investment from LG Display. IRiver will invest the remaining 49%. The companies say they aim to produce 1 million units annually by 2011 from river’s existing plant in Dongguan.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp buys Skiff E-Reader Technology
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has gobbled up Skiff, the company that makes e-readers and is the creator of the software that acts as the provider of information to tablets and e-readers as well as smartphones. Skiff had been set up by publishers Hearst Corp. as a separate company that is credited to have developed the back-end technology that would make it possible to render newspapers and magazines on e-readers in a manner that would mimic the original print publication. In fact, it had also created a device based on e-ink technology though News Corp. does not seem to be too interested in the hardware aspect of it all. So it might not be seen as the manufacturer of any hardware that could rival the Apple’s iPad or the Kindle from Amazon.
What makes the Skiff platform especially suitable to reading the online versions of newspapers and magazines is its large display area measuring 11.5 inches that has a resolution of 1200 x 1600 pixels. The device also boasts of rich topography and dynamic updates. Also, in spite of its rather large size, the Skiff e-reader is quite handy at 17.5 ounces at which it is lighter than the Kindle DX.
The Skiff e-reader also incorporates a sturdy design feature that has been made possible with the use of a stainless steel foil at the base so that the Skiff e-reader is shatter-proof, crack-proof and even flexible. Another unique design feature of the Skiff e-reader is its touch sensitive screen which, instead of glass, is made of a metal-foil that can accept both finger and stylus input and is housed in a magnesium housing. This has contributed to the device being incredibly strong and sturdy. The end result, the Skiff can even be bent to a certain extent without breaking. All of these and a lot more has led many to believe the Skiff to be the next big thing to hit the online newspaper publishing industry.
News Corp. on the other hand has several major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and New York Post under its fold which also includes some major news channels like the Fox network, the 20th Century Fox and Fox News. The buying spree did not stop here as the company has also picked up a stake in another company Journalism Online – a brainchild of three enterprising individuals, L. Gordon Crovitz, ex Wall Street Journal Publisher, Steven Brill and ex cable exec Leo Hindery Jr. Journalism Online look for means that would enable newspapers and magazines to get paid from their online readers for the news that they make available.
“Today’s developments underscore News Corporation’s ongoing commitment to create strong business models that support journalism at a time of great change in our industry.” “Both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumers will have continued access to the highest quality journalism,” said Jon Miller, Chief Digital Officer, News Corporation about the two business ventures.
Also, the two business deals is perhaps another step forward to what Rupert Murdoch had always dreamt of, that of making available news to people as a paid service.
But as per the latest slate pc news, Toshiba is keen to give their slate dreams another chance. Also, to make more of an impact, they have decided to go for two 7 inch screens instead of the single screen of the same size that had adorned the JournE Touch. The only other dual screen tablet that had created quite a ripple was the Microsoft Courier though the tablet slipped into oblivion in the most unceremonious manner. Of course there is the Entourage Edge and it’s currently available in the market though it isn’t the device that can make one go crazy.
This can act to Toshiba’s advantage in their effort at making a credible impact in the dual screen tablet segment with the GuideBook – the new tablet that Toshiba is readying. There is also news that Toshiba has dumped the Tegra 2 chip in favour of something else. That something else is a mystery though. Also, there were reports that Toshiba will leave it upon someone else for producing their tablet devices, someone who already has experience in doing something similar. But as per the latest news, the entire tablet project will be an in house affair right from the design to their manufacturing. Also, the GuideBook right now is likely to run the Windows 7 though the Android too can’t be ruled out. There is also talk of a larger tablet with a 10 inch screen sometime later that might be based on the Android and will bring Toshiba directly in line with the Apple’s iPad.
So it remains to be seen if two screens in place of one can bring better luck for Toshiba in the Tablet/Slate segment. In fact, much has changed since the days of the JournE Touch. There is the iPad now along with a few more that have made the consumers to demand even more. So for Toshiba to make an impact, they will perhaps have done more than just doubling up their efforts. The good news is, Toshiba is likely to formally announce the tablet as early as by the end of this month only.
The ‘BlackTab’ Tablet device that was rumoured to be under development from the makers of the BlackBerry range of smartphones is back in the news once more and this time, with more details of the elusive tablet. Each bit of news is clearing the haze bit by bit so that that what we are getting is a clearer picture of the device though the problem is it is painfully slow. However, the latest piece of news doing the rounds right now is that the BlackPad tablet will feature a QWERTY keyboard that will slide out of the touchscreen slate though there will also be an on screen keyboard that can be used when the BlackPad is in portrait orientation.
Also, the latest slate pc news has it that the BlackPad will have an integrated 5 MP camera while on board storage is tipped to be in the range of around 4 GB. What is also evident is that the BlackPad tablet will rely on tethering in order to power its mobile network. However, the thing that can play spoilsport is that users will be required to have a BlackBerry smartphone to get 3G data connection. So this would make the BlackPad as a constant companion to the BlackBerry and if indeed this is true, it would be interesting to see how consumers react to this. Wi-Fi though will be a standard feature on the BlackPad.
The BlackPad is also likely to include a universal search feature that will enable users to search for both local as well as online information. Among other details available of the BlackPad is that the tablet will run BlackBerry OS, version 6.
However, none of what has been mentioned so far has been confirmed by RIM while there has been no denial either. So that keeps the rumours alive. Surely expectations are high from the makers of the BlackBerry smartphone. Research in Motion made everyone sit up with their BlackBerry smartphones that perfected the idea of mobile e-mail and with tablets being the current craze, it only is logical for RIM to register its presence in this competitive segment as well.
According to a recent job posting on the Amazon Jobs Website and CareerBuilder.com, Amazon is looking to hire key personal for a “Stealth Project” to make video games. One of the first posts was for a Senior Product Manager of Digital Video Games, who would be responsible for overseeing the entire project and then recommend key staff positions, such as various project leads.
It is our opinion that the Amazon Kindle 2, Kindle DX and the new the anticipated Kindle Slim due this September will have games available.
Many E-Readers right now have small games available for them now, both issued from the company, such as the Barnes and Noble Nook with their Sudoku and other games. Also independent Developers also make small games for Android driven E-Readers such as the Spring Design Alex.
Its proven that small casual games that are either made by the E-Reader company or small home brewed applications do indeed work via E-Ink, one has to wonder if Amazon will step up the game and offer developers a custom SDK in order to make games for their Kindle line of E-Readers. This approach is something that the other E-Reader companies do not provide for the programing communities.
Amazon has issued a SDK for application development a few months ago, to select Beta Test Developers and have had job postings the last few months for Internet Web Browser development. Amazon has stated internally that they will likely see a new web browser debuted this September.
Here and There
Pandigital is going to release a new firmware update for its Novel E-Reader! As you recall, many of their units were not functioning well, and Kohl offered a recall on the items. Pandigital is offering a new firmware fix, but it does not really address the WI-FI connectivity problems.
Rumour of a new Pandigital E-Reader with more RAM that will replace the existing one. It is currently being reviewed by the FCC.
HP was in the news again during a tech conference last week when they were discussing how modern operating systems such as Windows 7 were not very feasible for Mobile computing, such as Slate and Tablet PC’s. This is ironic because only a few months ago HP made a few promotional videos on their Windows 7 Slate PC! With their acquisition of Palm last month and rumours of the HP Hurricane making the rounds running WebOS, HP has been very silent on what their game plan is regarding Slate and Tablet PC’s. We are speculating that until the deal for Palm officially goes through towards the end of July, we might hear some public announcements on their future on Mobile Computing.
Despite the fact that the Apple iPad is selling quite well in Japan, that is not stopping NEC from developing a new Tablet PC called the LifePad. The first thing that hits you with the LifeTouch is that it break away from the usual conventional tablet design of any size where the entire front end is almost entirely made up of the screen. Instead, what you have with the LifeTouch is a 7 inch WVGA TFT LCD touchscreen that’s relegated to the right edge of the tablet while the left edge is taken up by buttons which includes a D-Pad that make navigation through the menus and other apps like the browser a breeze. Looks wise, the LifeTouch may look like a mobile gaming console like the Nintendo DS though the entire design balances out nicely. The screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and is housed in a case that measures just 219 x 119 x 13.9mm while weighing merely 400 grams. The screen is receptive to both finger and stylus inputs.
Behind the screen lies an ARM Cortex-A8 processor though it hasn’t been revealed if the processor is from Freescale, Texas Instruments or Samsung. Coupled to the processor will be a 256MB Mobile DDR RAM and will come pre-installed with the Google’s Android operating system, version 2.1. A SDHC slot allows for expanding the on board storage further in case more space is needed while the two USB port (one full and another mini) will let users to attach more gadgets to the LifeTouch. No pricing details are available.
Ever since the Kobo E-Reader hit the retail markets last month, many people are having problems with non-Kobo ePub e-Books. We posted a solution on our blog, as well as files and a video tutorial we made that documents the entire process. Check it out.
Speaking of the Kobo E-Reader, the last major platform to not have an official Kobo application, now does! Rejoice users of Google Android enabled devices. Kobo has just released a new version of their E-Book reader for Slate PCS, Tablets and Smartphones such as the Nexus One and Droid.
That about wraps it up for the Good E-Reader week in review! If you want to know more about any of these stories, subscribe to our Good E-Reader Magazine! It gets bigger every month and gets delivered electronically to your Email INBOX! It’s in PDF form and now has linking features and Videos! You can read our magazine on any Tablet/Slate/Netbook and PC! Even If you have a smartphone or iPad, it’s all good! For more news on all things E-Reader, keep checking back on our blog daily for more news! If you want to get the latest news, firmware, guides, tutorials or E-Books check out the Good E-Reader Forum! We have trained staff to address any questions or concerns!
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.