Plastic Logic's Que E-Reader Is Killed

Plastic Logic has canceled its Que e-reader, and the company is vowing to refocus its resources on designing a next-generation product. The Que had been positioned as a high-end challenger to Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.

Plastic Logic has canceled of its Que e-reader, a potential high-end challenger to Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook. In its place, the company will apparently focus on "a second-generation ProReader plastic electronics-based product." The Que had already experienced rounds of delays, with customer preorders canceled in June.

The Que originally made its debut at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with Plastic Logic executives touting the device's ability to download and display documents as ideal for business travelers and other highly mobile professionals. Unlike the Kindle or Nook, however, the Que also came with a CEO-caliber price tag: the 4GB Que was slated for $649, while the 8GB version with WiFi and 3G was $799.

As a result, those Plastic Logic executives spent part of CES defending that pricing decision. "It's a higher price point because it's a different demographic: customers who want to read business documents," Steven Glass, senior director of technical marketing for Plastic Logic, told eWEEK during a Jan. 7 event. "The rest [of the e-reader manufacturers] aren't doing that, at least in a way they can annotate."

Indeed, the Que featured the ability to add comments, highlight text, search through thousands of files, and scribble on documents with a fingertip or stylus. But e-readers are a rapidly evolving category, and within months both Amazon and Barnes & Noble had pushed through a number of e-reader software updates that offered comparable functionality. In addition, the price for both the Kindle and Nook dropped to $189.

By June, the Que had experienced two rollout delays. "We've been working hard to bring the world's first product based on plastic electronics technology to market-and have decided that delaying the device a bit longer will result in [sending] a better product to you," read a June 24 email from Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta to a customer. "With that in mind, we need to let you know that since your unit will not ship on June 24 as planned, our automated ordering system has automatically cancelled your order."

In retrospect, that delay seemed a preamble to the Que's ultimate demise, announced Aug. 10.

"We recognize the market has dramatically changed, and with the product delays we have experienced, it no longer makes sense for us to move forward with our first-generation electronic reading product," Archuleta wrote in a statement posted on the Plastic Logic Website. "This was a hard decision, but is the best one for our company, our investors and our customers."

Archuleta suggested the company will "refocus, redesign and retool for our next-generation ProReader product." However, his statement offered scant clue about what form that product would eventually take-or how it would tackle a market not only crowded with low-cost e-readers, but also squeezed by the Apple iPad.