Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta reportedly sent an e-mail to customers who had preordered the Que, the company's e-reader, saying that shipments had been delayed until summer. In the March 11 missive, according to online reports, Archuleta blamed the delay on a need to fine-tune the device and "enhance the overall product experience."
Unlike other e-readers on the market that sell at a sub-$400 price point, including Amazon.com's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook, the 4GB Que with WiFi retails for $649, and the 8GB model with WiFi and 3G for $799. Plastic Logic has repeatedly emphasized the ability of the Que, which includes a 10.7-inch screen, to download and display Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents.
In a conversation with eWEEK at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Steven Glass, Plastic Logic's senior director of technical marketing, voiced the company's rationale for that cost: "It's a higher price point because it's a different demographic: customers who want to read business documents."
At the time, Glass also pointed to the Que's ability to add comments, highlight text and scribble on documents with a fingertip as another competitive differentiator. "The rest [of the e-reader manufacturers] aren't doing that, at least in a way they can annotate." The Que also features an ability to sort through thousands of documents rapidly.
The device will utilize AT&T's 3G network, and includes access to Barnes & Noble's eBookstore, which contains over a million volumes. In what could be seen as a standard-issue move for e-reader manufacturers, Plastic Logic has established partnerships with The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and other publishers to port their periodical content onto the device.
While Amazon and Barnes & Noble represent some of the larger companies currently operating in the e-reader market, and Apple's upcoming iPad incorporates robust e-book technology, a number of smaller players have been attempting to seize their own piece of the rapidly expanding market.
Other companies that debuted e-readers at CES included Skiff, a subsidiary of publishing company Hearst, which rolled out an e-reader with an 11.5-inch touch screen. The Skiff Reader's display, based on a flexible sheet of stainless-steel foil, will reportedly be available in Sprint locations later in 2010, with Sprint providing 3G connectivity for the device.
The potential for massive profits for Plastic Logic and these other companies is reportedly high, at least based on the sales numbers attributed to Amazon and the market's more established players. In a Dec. 1 research note, an analyst with advisory group Collins Stewart estimated that Amazon earned around $301.4 million off the Kindle in 2009, with that number expected to grow in coming years. Amazon has traditionally declined to break out its sales figures, as has Barnes & Noble.
The increasing array of e-readers on the market, has driven Amazon and other companies to lower their e-readers' prices. Whether Plastic Logic will decide to do the same thing, when it finally releases the Que, remains a question.