Editor's Note: There's going to be a battle for the next-generation personal device for the information society. Some are rooting for the latest crop of smartphones, others for tablet PCs, and others for netbooks. It also appears that advanced e-readers are also throwing their hats into the ring. (The Android OS, of course, addresses all of the aforementioned device formats.)
(newsfactor.com) - On Monday, Spring Design announced the first e-reader based on Google's Android operating system. Dubbed Alex, the device features full browser capabilities and a patented dual-screen interaction technology called Duet Navigator.
Alex aims to bring content to life with multimedia links that let users interact with other online materials as they read, opening the door to a potential industry for secondary publications, audio and video that augment the original text. Users can also create their own images and notes and capture them or just grab relevant content with Link Notes, the device's multimedia authoring tool.
"This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyperlinked to the text," said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design. "This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience."
Exploring an Android E-Reader
Alex features a six-inch E Ink EPD display and a 3.5-inch color LCD display, earphones and speakers. The device also comes equipped with a removable SD card to free up space and give users room to archive content. Spring Design customized the Android OS to support integration between the color and monochrome displays while preserving battery life.
Spring Design patented its dual-screen device with what the company calls "touch and extend" capabilities in 2007. With the browser, users can capture and cache Web content and toggle to view it on the screen without taxing battery life. Users can also bookmark content, see a history, and customize built-in security settings.
The device taps into full Internet browsing over Wi-Fi or mobile networks such as 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM. Spring Design is currently enlisting major content partners and plans to release the Alex device for selected strategic partners by the end of the year.
Who Are the Content Partners?
Spring Design is billing Alex as ideal for professional, educational and entertainment markets. But will it attract a Kindle-like following? Or will it drown in a sea of competitors? Michael Gartenberg, a vice president with Interpret, said the device is interesting and the dual screen is differentiated, but without content partners the coolness factor isn't enough to sell e-readers to the masses.
"When it comes to e-readers, content really is king. Hardware really doesn't matter. It's not going to be about how cool your hardware is. Obviously, that factors. What matters is what kind of content you can get on the device, what the ecosystem is, what the price points are, and so on," Gartenberg said.
Alex has at least one claim to fame -- and perhaps a claim to curiosity -- in that it's the first Android-powered e-book reader. But Gartenberg said being first to market with an Android device is interesting, but not the most important factor. In fact, he said, it could actually be a hindrance.
"Android wasn't really designed for e-books. It was designed for phones," Gartenberg said. "So we'll have to see how well Spring Design has been able to shoehorn an operating system that isn't particularly designed for this purpose into this format."