Netbook Creator Asus to Launch Game-Changing E-Reader
Asus is hoping to do for the e-reader market what it did for PCs when it introduced the first netbook. Asus, it's reported, will release one, if not two, e-reader in 2009, a "premium" version of which will feature two screens with a booklike spine.
Asus is planning to enter the e-reader market later this year with at least
one, if not two, device, the Times
of London is reporting.
The company that invented the netbook is innovating again, as the design ideas it shared with the Times would surely shake up the market. Unlike the single, flat screens of current e-readers-such as the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Plastic Logic Reader-the Asus version would feature two screen on a hinged spine, more exactly mimicking the look and feel of a book.
Additionally, the Asus e-reader would feature full color, instead of the monocolor screens its competitors use, for a realistic ink-on-paper look. It would also feature touch-screens and offer online connectivity. Consequently, readers would have the option of reading on one page and pulling up a Web page-with supplemental materials, for example-on the other, making it a natural educational tool.
Another option, reports the Times, is for the second screen to act as an on-screen keyboard, enabling the e-reader to be used like a laptop. A Webcam, speakers and a microphone for Skype also will be included.
"Our ethos is innovation-as our brand is less well-known, we have to run faster than the competition to develop new types of products," a spokesman for Asus told the Times.
"Any such product-including an e-reader-has to have the right combination of functionality and price. No one is going to buy one for ???1,000."
Asus is said to be working on "budget" and "premium" versions. The premium is likely the double-screen version described above. The budget model, dubbed the Eee Reader, after the company's Eee PC netbook line, is expected to be more traditional and compete at a considerably lower price point. The Times reports that Asus will likely try for a price of 100 British pounds, or approximately $164.
In a July 29 report, Forrester Research found that the e-reader market is growing, "albeit from a very small base," according to report author Sarah Rotman. She concluded that the market will grow once prices fall.
"While some will jump on board when prices hit $199 in 2010, others will hold out for a $99 device in 2012 or a $99 E Ink screen accessory for PCs and smartphones that could (and should) come out sooner," she wrote.
In a Sept. 1 report, Forrester reiterated the same, forecasting that interest will rise as prices drop. The same author predicted that e-readers won't reach the purchase numbers of MP3 players-which in 2009, 61 percent of the U.S. online population owns-but that digital cameras, which took 10 years to reach 50 million U.S. consumers, are a more likely model.
If Asus can do for the e-reader market what it did for PCs, it'll be back to the drawing board for the researchers.