Business eReader Que – $649 Business eReader

Plastic Logic’s Que Business eReader has been unveiled at CES 2010 and its $649 price puts it firmly in the ‘Business eReader’ category.

It’s a bit disappointing that they’d drum up interest for over a year without revealing pricing and then bring out something for $649.

Well, let’s look at whether Que is worth the price and ‘Business eReader’ designation.

Business eReader Que – The Key Features

First, a quick video – [youtube=]

You can see another video and some Que photos at Engadget.

Here are the main selling points of the Que Business eReader –

  1. Focused on and designed specifically for Business Professionals. Includes tools (software) built by Plastic Logic to help read and review business documents.
  2. Very readable, large eInk screen – 8.5″ by 11″.
  3. Thin and Light – 0.3″ and around a pound. 
  4. Flexible, unbreakable touchscreen. You can use your fingers.
  5. Wireless downloads from Que Store which has over a million titles. Note that the $649 model does not have 3G – only WiFi. 
  6. Supports Word, Excel, and calendar syncing from Outlook (the video claims it does).
  7. Partnered with Good and Blackberry – transfer any email or attachment from Blackberry via BlueTooth plus support for Exhcnage, Gmail, Windows Live and other email providers.
  8. TruVue format from Adobe that supports a lot of the style and layout of print newspapers.

You can get more details at the ‘Buy Que’ page at B&N.

Business eReader positioning – Is there even such a category?

At first blush you think –

  1. Que is aimed at the business eReader category to make the price realistic. 
  2. Que is a business eReader because that category is free of competitors.

While there’s probably some truth to these thoughts, Que does do a few things that make it, well, a business eReader –

  1. The large screen, PDF support, and claimed zooming capabilities make it great for PDFs.
  2. There is support for printable formats which means Word, Excel, Office 2007, Email, and Outlook (PC only).  
  3. It supports Blackberry phones (provided they have bluetooth and an OS beyond 4.5).  
  4. The thin and light design and the unbreakable screen make it easy to travel with.
  5. The screen size is ideally suited to documents and better for newspapers than existing eReaders.

Next, let’s look at the downsides.

What are the Que’s main competitors? What are the Que’s downsides?

By carving out a new category i.e. business eReader, the Que has put itself into a niche with basically no competitors.

The closest competitors are the Kindle DX and the Sony Reader Daily Edition. You could probably also include the Samsung E101 and iRex D1000.

We’ll address comparisons later since Que doesn’t come out until April 2010.

Que does have some downsides –

  1. The $649 model not having 3G support is ridiculous. 
  2. The price is way too high.
  3. The Que Readers don’t seem to have an SD card.
  4. The screen has just 8 shades of grayscale and while not a big issue, it’s puzzling.
  5. It’s big enough to make portability a concern.

Que Business eReader Technical Specifications

First, let’s look at the $649 WiFi and no 3G Que –

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), USB, Bluetooth ® 2.0
Memory: 4 GB (Approx. 3.6 GB available for user data)

Display (viewable area): 10.5-inch diagonal, 944 x 1264 pixels at 150ppi, 8 gray levels
User Interface: Full Touchscreen, Virtual Keyboard

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, charging via computer or wall charger
Dimensions: 8.5″ x 11″ x .3″
Weight: Approximately 17 ounces

Supported Formats:

QUE has native on-device support for PDF, GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, ePub, and TXT
Using the QUE software on your computer, QUE supports printable formats such as Microsoft Office 2003/2007 (requires Microsoft Office on your computer), email and calendar (Windows PC only; requires Microsoft Office Outlook), HTML (e.g., maps), and RTF

Minimum System Requirements:

PC or Mac with USB 2.0 support
Windows 7; Windows Vista, Windows XP Home or Professional (Service Pack 2 or greater)
Mac OS X v10.5.4 or greater (Intel-based Macs only)
100MB minimum of free hard drive space (installation only)
Internet Access (broadband suggested)

Smartphone Requirements
BlackBerry ® smartphone with Bluetooth ® Technology
BlackBerry ® smartphone operating system 4.5.0 or higher

The $799 3G capable Que has the following differences –

Connectivity: Cellular (GSM) – In addition to the $649 Que’s Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), USB, Bluetooth ® 2.0
Memory: 8 GB (Approx. 7.6 GB available for user data).

Weight: 17 ounces.  

$150 extra for just a 3G card and 4GB extra memory doesn’t really make sense.

Closing Thought – Que’s price is not right

Yesterday, the Samsung was a disappointment because it was a bit expensive at $399. Today, the lowest priced Que is $649.

Compare it with the $489 Kindle DX and the $160 difference isn’t justified –

  1. Que does support Word, Excel etc. and have a larger screen.
  2. It claims to support zoom in PDFs and the larger screen is a good fit for PDFs.
  3. However, there’s no Free Internet, and no 3G wireless.
  4. There isn’t a Text to Speech feature either.

Most of all, the Kindle DX is expensive to begin with. Que’s entry-level model at $649 is just too expensive.

By April 2010 we might see a lot change (Apple iSlate, Kindle 3) and the Que Business eReader at $649 is going to look even more expensive.

Plastic Logic, Olive Software tie-up to provide eReader content

Plastic Logic isn’t stopping at its content tie-up with Barnes & Noble for ebooks. Today, Aug 13th, 2009, its announcing a tie-up with Olive Software, a company that describes itself as –

the leading provider of digital edition and digital archiving solutions for the publishing industry.

The Press Release is out today. You can also get the Kindle Compatible Format.

Olive software provides solutions to 400 organizations to push content on the web and on to other platforms.

[wpvideo RJvjAZ0K]

Olive software’s clients include –

  1. Newspapers – Daily Mail (UK), Denver Post, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Financial Times (UK), Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), and many more. 
  2. Magazines – Time, Haymarket Publishing, and more.
  3. Libraries like Brooklyn Public Library and Colorado State University.
  4. Universities like Princeton University, Oxford University, and University of Pennsylvania.
  5. Enterprises like American College of Surgeons, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft and Canon.
  6. Government agencies including United States Government’s Department of Defence and the Israeli Air Force.

 So it definitely brings a lot to the table.

You can check out an example of their ActiveMagazine solution and an example of their ActivePaper Solution.

The most fun, though, are the Archived Newspapers such as this June 16th, 1900 copy of the West Creek Mining News.

Their other solution is something called ViewPoint which takes different formats and converts them to a XML based digital format. The XML format can then be easily accessessd and leveraged to target a variety of platforms.

Plastic Logic’s Content Strategy

Plastic Logic’s quoted price range i.e. $299-$800 and not on the lower side of the scale has clearly indicated they want to focus on the business side.

The addition of Olive Software, and their customer base of 400 newspapers, magazines, libraries, universities, companies and governments, clearly indicates that Plastic Logic are serious about adding a lot of content for those business customers.

Olive software also provides some features that could translate to the Plastic Logic eReader –

Hybrid print and electronic subscriptions to maximize the value to audience and engage your audiences in multiple formats

Interactive ads within the online edition

Authenticate and track subscribers, gaining valuable insight using detailed analytics including popular content, tracking visitors interests, loyalty and time spend on the edition

Repurpose content to create new online products such as RSS feeds, custom editions

Plastic Logic’s content partners now include –

  1. Barnes & Noble for ebooks.  
  2. Olive software for Newspapers etc.
  3. Zinio for digital magazines.
  4. Libre Digital for books, newspapers and more.
  5. Ingram Digital for 150,000+ ebooks, 7,000+ audiobooks and more.

That’s becoming a pretty impressive list and ought to translate into tons of choice for business customers that buy the Plastic Logic eReader.

Plastic Logic officially denies $299 price

There’s finally official news from Plastic Logic (via Jonelle at their PR firm) that the rumored $299 price (as Forbes and Times Online had stated) is incorrect.

The actual email itself –

There have been some reports that implied Plastic Logic had announced their price, Plastic Logic has not announced pricing for the product and does not plan to until launch in January 2010.

I can tell you that we plan to be competitive in the eReader category, where prices now range from $199 to $800.  But we won’t be at the low end of the market. That’s because we’re providing business professionals with some of the industry’s most advanced technologies, including our large plastic screen, ultra-thin and lightweight form factor that offers users a digital reading experience unlike any other.

The response from Plastic Logic is greatly appreciated.

The confusion over $299 probably occurred because by saying ‘competitive price’ Plastic Logic meant ‘competitive with current eReaders, such as the Kindle DX’. Most people (including me) made the mistake of assuming they meant the Kindle 2 and Sony 600.

So … Let the guessing game begin.

Since the lower end is excluded, we can rule out $199 and $299. Their re-emphasis that the PL eReader is focused on business professionals is pretty telling.  

What do you think?  

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Based on current trends it seems that –

  1. Kindle DX 2 perhaps comes in at around $400 to $450 early next year.
  2. The subsidized Apple iNetbook comes in at around $300-$400 in September or October ($800 without contract).
  3. The 9″ Sony Reader 900 comes in at either $399 or $449 just before Christmas.

What price do you think the Plastic Logic eReader ought to be at to make an impact?