February 13, 2009

New attempt at FOLIO type device by REDFLY

Laptopmag recently has reviewed this new device from REDFLY that is the inheritor of the Folio legacy!

Intomobile.com have a page with demo video that gives a good overview.

I've covered the rapid rise and fall of the Palm FOLIO here in previous posts, but it seems people are willing to have another attempt at breaking the limitations of mobile phone input (keyboard) and output (display).....brave people, well done!

As demoed, its a great improvement for input and viewing for applications in Windows Mobile devices with small screens, especially when the applications are smart enough to take advantage of it. 

However, I still have reservations about taking along a significantly sized device (plus its power adapter) that is useless on its own without being connected to the mobile phone.

My proposal all along has been to have a collections of devices that are all useful in their own right. 

So, I would propose that the viewing part of this functionality be made available when the mobile phone is connected to an eBook Reader. The mobile phone is useful and highly portable on its own, the eBook is great for reading and has a long battery life on it's own, and when you put the two together you get something new beyond the capabilities of any one piece.

Keyboards remain an issue that needs work. If it wasn't for the lack of haptic feedback from touchscreens then we could go the way of the proposed OLPC XO 2 - but I'm not sure I'd get proficient at typing on a hard surface with no moving keys, nor if I'd like it.

February 12, 2009

Read while you wait - on epaper

Engadget picked-up on some news about trials by Fujitsu of their color epaper-like displays in restraurants and bars

This is their FLEPia technology which I've covered here in the past with previous posts:

As you can read, it actually a very small and short trial, but interesting all the same. 

They are deliverying various content types to the reader at the restaurant table, hopefully not an indication they want to keep you entertained due to slow service! 

When not in active use by a user it stands on the table as a small sign and cycles through train/metro timetables and adverts.

Foxit eSlick eBook Reader goes for the low end of the market

I first covered this Foxit eSlick eBook reading device in a post back in December.

But it seems to be back in the news with a minor (software?) update. You can see it on the Foxit web-site here: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/ebook/

They don't mess about with positioning and exort you to "Save money to buy more eBooks" !

There is a YouTube video showing it in use, but it's not really worth watching.

It appears to be a fairly standard e-ink based device like so many I've covered here in the past. The only things I could see of note were the focus on supporting landscape orientation (useful for a few types of documents, but not very comforatable panning through those portrait documents in landscape mode).

It's a straightforward, somewhat economical eBook reader at $260, but not the cheapest out there I don't think. According to this Gearlog post they have set a "target price" of $230. Unclear why that price is not available from the Foxit web-site....or will only be a price at Retail.
Foxits eSlick comes with free software: Foxit Reader Pro Pack and Foxit PDF Creator. to aid getting PDF documentant onto your device.
Foxit seem to have a lot of experience in PDF and related software solutions, although I have no personal experience with it. 

With this device, apparently the "added bonus" will be that it will be the first "eBook Reader class" device to support files for the "eReader" software that is available on the iPhone and other SmartPhones, allowing you hopefully to share content across both devices - an emerging theme recently (see Amazon Kindle 2 wrap-up post coming soon...)

They claim their first "batch" sold out. They say if you have pre-ordered "before February" then they expect it to ship in Feb/March...

They have a pre-order button on their web site. It takes you to a dead-end web page. By trial-and-error I found that hitting the "[Click here to back]" link, actually takes you forward to a pre-order page.  

How can companies make a product like this, and then be so flaky on their web site and allowing people to learn more about it and to ORDER it!

Alternatively, for you "Bricks and Mortar" folks, you can try and find a reseller in your country at this web-page of theirs.... http://www.foxitsoftware.com/purchase/distributors.htm although to me it looks more like a list of distributors, not resellers.

February 11, 2009

Plastic Logic starting to fill out their ecosystem

Since Plastic Logic is getting quite a few mentions recently in the eBook space, despite the Kindle2 release and new Cebit eBooks I wanted to post this quick reference to news on what they are doing to get content partners on board with them.
Quoting "The Earth Times", which in turn quotes Plastic Logic's own Press Release:
"agreements with Ingram Digital (ebooks), LibreDigital (enewspapers), Zinio (emagazines) and a direct relationship with business newspaper, the Financial Times, and the nation’s top selling newspaper, USA TODAY, lay the foundation for the company to sell and distribute a wealth of content for its forthcoming Plastic Logic Reader."

More ePaper trials

News is coming in (Engadget and Engadget China) of new trials of good-looking e-paper, both monochrome and color. 

The image quality (see the Engadget China post for best images, with comments in Chinese) looks great, at least on the monochrome version, although the color is nothing to write home about.

A3, good quality....if they can make them on plastic then the digital tabloid is not that far away...

February 10, 2009

More eBooks for your cell phone

Here in this blog recently I've been covering more and more news about reading eBooks on your cell phone, mostly iPhone. 

This is due mostly to great improvements in cell phones displays (size and quality) plus east to use navigation means for them, and faster data connections to download content and better battery life for the above.

Aparently Amazon has announced that it will soon be making the content it has for the Kindle (230,000 titles) available for your cellphone. Which cell phones exactly remains to be seen.

That seems an admission that Amazon are happy in the "Kindle space" and don't plan to get into the hardware (at this point) of smaller, different devices but that they do plan to leverage the success of those devices, and the shear numbers of them appearing in the market to push their content business for content they already have and are selling for the Kindle.

It would be very slick if they allowed you to buy content ONCE and then to view on one device AND the other, and even synchronize your reading between the two via their service (so you can always pick-up where you left off), but I think I'm being to ambitious there.

When I hear more about these moves I'll keep you posted. Post a comment if you see anything before I do.

February 9, 2009

Kindle 2 introduction imminent

Rumors about the second version of Amazon's successfull Kindle eBook reader device have been flying (echoing) around the blogo-sphere for some time now.

First came this leak of photos and pricing reported by Engadget, via MobileRead (see mobileread post for more photos also).

In these photos the general look of the first kindle is kept, and it changes in a number of other ways, such as:
  • it is much thinner than the original Kindle, and in another photo it's shown to be thinner than your average pencil...which is pretty thin.
  • the back of the device is apparently made of metal, a little like older iPods and iPhones, although I don't see that as much of a "features", except as it might translate into rigidity.
  • there are stereo speakers at the bottom of it, on the back side as shown in this photo.
I don't really get the speakers. It can do audio books (and music) already, and Amazon now own Audible the leading audio book seller - but I see audio books as a one-person thing best done with earphones. Who wants to head an audio book outloud (except maybe when you're in the car on your own)?

Who can complain about thin-ness and lightness? 

It seems to be fast approaching the kind of thin light device that you wouldn't mind adding to your travel bag, and significantly smaller than most of the books it can contain within.
It looks like an improvement over the design of the original Kindle. In particular it looks like it will address one of the major complaints of the first device (apart from it's general ugliness), that the forward and back keys can be hit accidentally too easily while reading producing unwanted page changes.

Aparently there will be an Amzazon event today at 10AM Eastern Time, where everyone is specualting that it will be officially announced.

We'll probably have to wait until then to get official specs, and details on features. But let me speculate:-
  • it may move to a newer generation of the eInk film that is slightly whiter in white state, and slightly faster changing state.
  • it will move to the new eInk "broadsheet" display controller ASIC that updates the screen faster, introduces new update modes depending on the type of content, allows for partial screen updates - and when all combines can enable "cartoon" type animations in parts of the screen for appropriate content.
  • They will have done a lot of refinements of the electronics and firmware to get to a battery performance approaching that of the Sony Reader, and if well done, so that it can really go into sleep mode while reading, then the battery life maybe also be defined in number of page turns, not hours.
  • I'm tempted to speculate that it might move to a faster 3G data connection over its existing 2.5G EVDO network, but I actually think that might be a bad idea! The existing solution seems fast enough from what I hear, and I dread to think what 3G might do to it's battery life if not implemented very well. The heat that 3G chipsets can generate make me wornder if that's why it's got a metal back all of a sudden.
So, significant incremental improvements seem sure. 

My personal request would be to get rid of the keyboard and replace it with a touchscreen. The Sony Reader seems to have made a good job of this, with slick operation and no significant impact on battery life.

Then, make the whole thing display! 
Rather than making it smaller than the device shown in these photos, fill up thatoverall size with wall-to-wall display that can show documents formatted for A/A4 paper readable.

February 8, 2009

E-paper signs being tested in Tokyo for disaster prevention

The user of E-paper signs has been seen in test in Tokyo recently. 

Aparently they are connected by a wireless network and information can be displayed on them in case of an emergency.

"There are currently two signs: one in the lobby of the post office measures over three meters across and sports 240 x 768 resolution (the paper has 4mm pixels), and holds down power consumption at about 24W. Stationed at the Higashi-Ikebukuro bus stop, the second sign is 60 x 40 centimeters with 144 x 96 resolution, and power consumption here is about 9W."

The original post on Techon states that the ePaper was developed by Toppan Printing. The aim of the study appears to be "to prove the effectiveness of the system as evacuation guidance for people who might not be able to return home in the event of a disaster."

The biggest at 1m x 3.2m is a significant size, even if 4mm pixels, and was made by arranging 48 x 96-pixel electronic papers in five vertical rows and eight horizontal rows (40 tiles in total) and consumed 24Watts (0.6Watt per tile).

The smaller sign of only three tiles consumed more proportionally at 9Watts, presumably due to the consumption of the receiving wireless electronics being significant compared to a tile's consumption, and the same across the two sized displays. If each tile consumer 0.6Watts (say), then the electronics would be around 7Watts in this last example. I'd need to do some numbers but that seems to be able to be achieved with a solar panel attached to it, and having a battery that would give quite a few hours of operation also seems feasible.

That maybe why they have focused on emergency use cases, as it could be interesting that they can receive the information and change their content and continue to display information without using any "external" power source, as it maybe cutt-off due to emergency? We hope the source sending the information will have power....

It remains to be seen whether this technology will be applied beyond "public information" display to advertising signage. There is no mentioned of the visibility of these reflective (it is assumed) displays at night, and that would depend off-course on the ambient street ligthing or any front-light added to illuminate the sign.
The availability of color will no doubt be a big component of it's suitability for generating advertising revenue.