PC World has jumped the shark with the bombastic title: Bye-bye Kindle, E-reader Screens Coming for Netbooks. It’s all about start-up Pixel Qi’s new screen which can operate as traditional backlit color LCD or as a black-end-white e-paper that hardly consumes energy and most importantly reduces eye-strain. PC World jumps to the conclusion:
E-reader makers have reason to fear such innovation because people will be able to buy devices with more functions for about the same price. The latest Kindle, a stand-alone e-reader, costs US$359 according to Amazon.com, while some of the world’s most popular netbooks with 10-inch screens, Asustek’s Eee PC 1000HE and Acer’s Aspire One AOD150-1165, are similarly priced.
I beg to disagree. But rather than speculate, I’m asking authors Dan Nystedt and Martyn Williams to do a test: hold a 3-pound netbook for several hours, in different positions, not at their desk, while trying to enjoy an e-Book. Forget eye strain for now (testing with current screen) just focus on the weight and overall comfort factor.
Granted, “new netbooks designed to include e-reader functions will likely have displays that can swivel around to cover the keyboard, a tablet mode good for an e-book reader” said John Ryan, chief operating officer at Pixel Qi, but that’s not enough: you still have the bulk and weight of the full netbook. To achieve the convenience of an e-Reader, the new screens would have to be completely detachable, thin and lightweight.
I think the authors are missing two points: ergonomics, and the trend of moving from all-in-one traditional computers which squeeze in zillions of functions (throw in a kitchen sink?) to situational devices that allow us to read, communicate, work in different conditions be at at the desk, in bed or poolside – or in the pool for that matter. The key enabler of this trend is low cost.
I am by no means underestimating Pixel Qi’s new screen technology, but I think on traditional notebooks or netbooks it’s more about visibility in bright sunshine outdoors than anything else. Of course coupled with a device like the Crunchpad would give us a bit more intelligent eBook: one for reading, browsing, limited Net interaction via touch functions – but no keyboard or peripherals. Nothing that increases bulk.
And as for the direction eBooks take, I’d also look at (look at? salivating for) Plastic Logic’s reader, showed off (and handed out) at D7. (Video does not show in feed, pls. click through to see it.)
Update: see Pixel Qi’s video demonstration here: