LAS VEGAS-If it's flat and computes, apparently, it's bound to be a hit at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. That's one conclusion that can be drawn by the sheer proliferation of tablet PCs, laptops with tablet-style functionality and e-readers at the event being held here this week, which will draw an estimated 110,000 people.
On Jan. 6, Samsung introduced two e-readers, one with a 6-inch screen and a 10-inch version, into a market segment already crowded with devices from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Plastic Logic, Spring Design, a Hearst subsidiary and presumably others in the coming days.
Samsung suggested as part of its launch that the company's background in electronics was fully leveraged in creating the e-readers.
"We've used our expertise to create a high-quality e-book with today's on-the-go consumer in mind," Young Bae, director of display marketing for Samsung Information Technology Division, said in a statement. "Samsung is addressing a common frustration that users experience with many of today's digital readers with a stylus that allows them to annotate their favorite works or take notes. Coupled with wireless functionality that enables sharing of content, this is truly a multi-faceted device."
The E6, the 6-inch e-reader, and the E101, the 10-inch version, both allow the user to make notes and other annotations directly on the screen with a built-in electromagnetic resonance (EMR) stylus pen. Samsung is claiming that the devices, which are equipped with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and integrated Bluetooth 2.0, will potentially have enough battery power for up to two weeks of use on a single charge. The E6 will retail for $399, while the E101 will cost $699; both will be available in early 2010.
The escalation in the e-reader space included Amazon.com's Jan. 6 announcement that it would introduce a new version of its large-screen e-reader, the Kindle DX, with global wireless capability that will allow e-books to be delivered to the device in over 100 countries. Scheduled to ship on Jan. 19 and retailing for $489, the Kindle DX features a 9.7-inch electronic display, a built-in PDF reader, 3G wireless connectivity and 3.3GB of storage.
Amazon.com emphasized in a release tied to the device that the Kindle DX will be capable of displaying both personal and professional documents, even ones that are highly formatted. This could be an attempt to head off some of the competitive pressure from smaller e-reader manufacturers in the space, which have been promoting their devices as ideal for porting personal documents and thus a necessary tool for business travelers.
"Documents look so good on the big Kindle DC display that you'll find yourself changing ink toner cartridges less often and printing fewer documents," Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon.com's Kindle division, said in a Jan. 6 statement.
Other e-reader manufacturers have been attempting to carve out ground in the personal-document-reading space, given how much of the mind share for actual e-books is dominated by Amazon.com's Kindle line and Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader. Both retailers have massive e-book stores paired to proprietary devices that reportedly sold well this holiday season.
Sony also remains a longtime player in the e-reader market, having signed an agreement with Google earlier in 2009 to make the search engine giant's Google Books available to their e-reader line; other companies, including Spring Design (whose Alex e-reader will also reportedly make an appearance at CES), have announced similar deals with Google.
Periodical content may soon become another pitched battleground for e-readers seeking market share. Amazon.com's Kindle DX statement highlighted the "80 top U.S. and international newspapers" available in the Kindle Store for both single purchase and subscription. Meanwhile, a subsidiary of mega publisher Hearst announced in time for CES that it was debuting the Skiff Reader, a large-format e-reader designed to display periodical content and other text on a slightly oversized and durable 11.5-inch screen.
This high degree of froth suggests, if nothing else, that the e-reader landscape is still nascent; however, the devices that appear at CES, and consumer reaction to them, will help determine how that landscape develops throughout 2010.