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TOC's Wednesday Devices, and Gadgets and EReaders Update #2

With the IFA Consumer Electronics Unlimited techno-smorgasbord set to open this Friday, there's a lot of buzz going around about upcoming announcements and unveilings. Much of the pre-show buzz is centered around Android-based competition for the Apple iPad.

The IFA traditionally offers an early indication of what gadgets will sell well through Christmas. It's no wonder so much attention is focused on the show with order volume stemming from last year's show reaching nearly $3.8 billion.

Toshiba's SmartPad

toshiba_tablet_1-540x397.jpgImages of the new Toshiba SmartPad were recently leaked, but with little concrete information about the device. Some news sources are claiming that the new Android 2.2-powered device will actually be called the Toshiba Folio 100. There may also be a Windows 7 version of the SmartPad as well. Little is available from Toshiba itself other than the device is set to ship in October. This is one of the devices that is expected to be unveiled at IFA.

ViewSonic ViewPad 7

veiwsonic-viewpad7.jpgWith a screen that measures 7-inches across, the ViewPad is jokingly being referred to as the world's largest phone. Featuring both a touchscreen tablet, the ViewPad also provides a slot for a full-sized SIM card that will offer both voice and 3G data. In addition, the ViewPad will feature a 3 megapixel front and back facing camera. The device will run Android 2.2 "Froyo." ViewSonic has not unveiled pricing or availability, those details will probably be announced at IFA, however, industry analyst reports indicate that the device will be around $550 and launch sometime in October.

Archos Android Internet Tablets

archos.jpgThis week brought the announcement from Archos that they were launching five new Android tablets, including the first MP3/MP4 available under $100 and the largest screen on the Android market. Positioned directly against the Apple iPad, the line of Archos Internet tablets offer a combination of super-fast web-browsing, games, ebooks, social networking and other applications alongside HD video and music. Prices range from $99.99 for the 4GB ARCHOS 28 to $349.99 for the 16GB ARCHOS 101 tablet. Availability for the new models start in September for the ARCHOS 28 and 32, and later this fall for the remaining models.

Of these new devices, the ARCHOS 101 is the flagship of the new line. Weighing only 15.87 ounces, the 0.47" thick device offers a 10.1” capacitive multi-touch screen. Featuring a 1 Ghz processor and built-in WIFI-n technology, the ARCHOS 101 offers a PC-like web browsing experience. It even features support for the Adobe Flash 10.1 player. Additional features that make this device appealing include a built-in webcam and the ability to tether the device via Bluetooth or USB for mobile Internet connectivity.

Sharper Image Literati

literati.pngOnce a common occupant in malls throughout the US and even further recognized a gadget lovers most favored monthly catalog, Sharper Image has fallen on tough times filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2008. While the only thing that remains of the company is their website, that hasn't prevented them from joining the ereader fray.

Resembling the Amazon Kindle, the Kobo-powered color ereader will launch at a very competitive $160. Featuring a QWERTY keyboard below a 7" screen, the e-reader lacks a web browser and application functionality, clearly putting it in the stand alone ereader category. Expected to arrive in October, the Literati will be available from a number of retailers, including Best Buy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, Kohl's and Macy's.

Acer LumiRead

acer_lumiread_inline.jpgTrying to build upon their netbook success, Acer recently announced its LumiRead ereader device. Based on a 6-inch E Ink display, the LumiRead will feature a Kindle-style QWERTY keyboard below the screen. When combined with either the 3G or WIFI models, the LumiRead's DLNA compliance makes the ereader capable of streaming music from Acer's and 3rd party streaming services. Additional features include an ISBN scanner that lets the device scan book codes to purchase online or build a wish list. Finally, the LumiRead includes a built-in web browser with a “Smart Download” feature. This allows the LumiRead to save local versions of web pages for reading later when the device is disconnected from the Internet.

The LumiRead will come with access to the Barnes & Nobles eBooks store as well as, Germany's leading Internet book retailer. While no prices have been announced, rumors suggest the LumiRead will start shipping in October for around $316.

SigmaTek eReaders

sigmatek-7-inch.jpgThe last ereader in our roundup is the pair of devices from Sigmatek Computer. Coming in a 5-inch and a 7-inch eReader, both feature a TFT display capable of a 800x480 resolution. however, these new devices are not just dedicated ereaders, they also offer “multimedia” features that include support for AVI, XviD, and MKV video, with MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and OGG music.

From the start, these eReaders may be playing catch-up because the devices are not equipped with connectivity to any application or ebook store. However, some may see this as an advantage because it means the eReaders will be open for you to grab EPUB, PDF and TXT files from anywhere you choose. In stores in October, the 5-inch model will cost approximately $127 and the 7-inch approximately $153.

New Announcements From The World Of EReaders

While all eyes will be pointed towards Germany this weekend, there's still some exciting news happening within the ereader market. First off, Amazon announced that they would extend their distribution of the Kindle to office supplies retail chain Staples. Following on from a similar deal with retailer Target, Staples has agreed to start selling Amazon's Kindle in its stores from this autumn. While expanding the number of channels for selling Kindle devices is key, according to Chris Brogan, Amazon's willingness to port their Kindle application to other ereader platforms may become their most important channel.

According to an SEC filing by electronics manufacturer LG, they could be mass producing 9.7-inch color and 9-inch flexible e-paper displays by the end of the year. According to an analyst at Forrester, the availability of flexible screens could greatly improve the durability of existing readers from Sony, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. While flexible ereaders from Skiff and Plastic Logic have failed in the past due to heavy pricing competition, a mass-produced display from LG could level the pricing playing field and bring about new ereader innovations.

Finally, as part of a unique, year-long Notre Dame study of eReaders, the university debuted their first class taught entirely using the Apple iPad. The iPad will completely replace the textbook previously used in assistant professor Corey Angst's Project Management course. In addition to each of the students using an iPad, the class will also use an online Wiki discussion group where students can share their ideas. Members of the study are evaluating the iPad with the broader goal of designing an “ePublishing ecosystem.” The study hopes to determine whether this ecosystem can serve faculty, students and staff by making the creation, distribution, sharing, reading and annotation of eMaterials simple and inexpensive.

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