Saturday, May 31, 2008

BPN 1115 eReaders vs UMPCs

It was a great meeting yesterday. The small band of eReaders friends gathered to discuss the fate and future of the eReaders. Of course everyone brought an eReader along or an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). It was a nice collection of gadgets. In the range of the eReaders the real iLiad (not the emasculated Book version) was on the table as well as the Cybook and the Hanlin. The real trophy was the XO of the One Laptop Per Child project. And an UMPC of the first series of the ASUS EEE was demonstrated with its small screen; in the meantime there is one with in the same dimensions but with a. 8.9 inch screen. Sadly, there was no Kindle of on the table.

Everyone agreed that the digital paper screens of the eReaders mean a break-through compared to the eBooks from Sony and Franklin, the eReaders of the nineties. The readability has definitely improved. Reading in the sun and in bed is no problem anymore. The present eReaders defies the publishers’ slogan: You can’t take a monitor to bed.

Also the power management has improved dramatically over the old battery technology. Only in the process of starting and the powering down the eReader uses energy as well as during flipping the pages back and forth. It has now longer battery life and the eReader is also much lighter.

The wireless facility like in the iLiad is a new feature to this generation of eReaders. It offers opportunities to receive books and newspapers while on the move. Yet this feature will be technology bound. Just look at the Kindle which works already on another principle. Kindle uses an EVDO (Evolution Data only) wireless network, Amazon Whispernet, to download books. Users do not need to find Wi-Fi hotspots or synch their Kindles with computers. Books can generally be downloaded in less than a minute, and several magazines, newspapers, and blogs are automatically delivered to subscribers. But one can think about Bluetooth technology and UMTS technology. It will give the eReader more roaming power.

Looking into the future digital paper readers might get colour screens, which will help the rendering of colour printed newspapers and magazines as well as books and catalogues. As for movies we will have to wait for another technology like electrowetting to mature.

But the UMPCs could will disturb the market of eReaders. The screens of UMPCs are still variations on LCD screens. However in the ASUS and the XO the screens have received renewed attention in order to bring down the power consumption. In the XO the power consumption can be brought by just switching off the backlight and bringing down the consumption to 1 Watt; and the readability is still acceptable. And the screen for the XO-2, which will be released in 2010, looks even more exciting (see photographs).

But given the size and the new technologies, UMPCs are becoming preferable above eReaders due to its multi-functionality. The ASUS EEE has an internet facility, wifi and webcam on board. XO has even a smarter wifi set on board, linking up to one kilometre. So UMPCs are moving in: XO, ASUS EEE, Intel classmate and Dell mini. To me the XO-2 is really way ahaead by changing the concept of a Ultra Mobile PC with a virtual keyboard, the handling of a two pages book and a gamepad for two persons. Should we start forgetting the eBook reader?

For those who read Dutch, go to: Jaap Stronks' blog.

Blog Posting Number: 1115

Tags: eReader, digital paper,

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