Thursday, August 24, 2006

iLiad: nice screen, but work in progress (4)

In this last instalment about the iLiad I would like to go into the aspect of power consumption and draw my provisionary conclusions.

The iLiad is a new concept as far as the screen and the power consumption. Battery life has been a problem so far with e-books and PDAs. The first e-books of Sony had big batteries and a power pack, which made it heavy to carry. Together with the short battery life, it was one of the disadvantages of the compact device. The second generation e-book had a reloadable power pack on board, which did not make it too light. Also the battery life was not impressive.

The iLiad has an internal power pack, which has to be charged. This charging takes about two hours and is completed when the LED indicator stops being red. The powering up of the iLiad (see photograph of opening screen) is very slow. I did not time is exactly but I could count till forty-two before the device could be used. The slow powering up will gradually be improved by the new software upgrades, as was already noticed in the first upgrades. The powering down is faster. One should complete the powering up and powering down routine without interference. Once the command has been given to power down, one has to wait till the routine is completed. Attempting to power it up again, as one forgot to read something, might cause a collusion, which can only be solved by recharging the iLiad.

The new USP of the device is the power consumption not on the basis of exposed time, but on the turning of the page. Only the turning of the page will consume power. Once a page is turned, there is no consumption. In this way more than 10.000 page turns could be made. Theoretically it also means that the iLiad consumes only power from the powering up and powering down as well as from the turning of the pages. Just like a book you can leave the iLiad on with the last page you were reading. I said theoretically as I have been unable to check it out, yet.

I have been awaiting the iLiad with great eagerness. I am excited about the screen. It is digital paper, very readable and crisp. The device has a handy format, although I am wondering about the protection of the screen, when time moves on. Of the navigation button the page flipper is interesting as it imitates the turning back of pages to go forward and the turning forward for pages to go back. The powering up is very slow. The power management, I have not tested yet. As to the software available, it is clear that iRex Technologies still has a long way to go; this is remarkable as the second generation of e-books (by Franklin and Gemstar) was already miles ahead of the iLiad software.

The conclusion for me:
- the iLiad has made its promise come true on the readability of digital paper;
- the design of the device needs improvement (see the confusion of the on/off switch and the network connection switch);
- the powering up takes too long;
- of the navigation buttons the flip bar is interesting; the other buttons are confusing or not functional;
- the present software available to read books, newspapers and documents is too rudimentary (no zoom-in and -out or magnifying bubble, no hyperlinks).

All in all, the iLiad is not a finished product. It has a nice screen. And that sadly is the only USP. It will take iRex Technologies still a long time to ready the device for particular markets. The technical documentation market is probably willing to accept the machine as is. But it is certainly not the plug-and-play device for the consumer market; to be that the iLiad will need improvement in device design and a complete rethink of the software.

The iLiad is presently definitely not the device to fight the upcoming e-books on the iPod. And I am wondering in how far companies working on digital paper e-books like Sony, PlasticLogic, Siemens and Fujitsu will be able to give iRex Technologies competition.

I like to end this test on a positive note. The iLiad with the digital paper is definitely a major breakthrough in readability and it is the first device of a series to come, which will give an impulse to specific, portable reading devices for electronic newspapers, e-books and technical documentation.

Tags: e-book, ,

Blog Posting Number: 486

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