CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, is sort of a machine for generating all possible variations on whatever this year’s hot technology is, and this year is no exception. It must be hard work for these companies to come up with so many variations on the word “tablet”; ‘eTab’, ‘slate’, ‘eSlate’, ‘slatebook’, etc. On the upside, every single one of these has a major use as a reader for ebooks. So here’s a broad overview of as many of these things as possible:
Google introduced the next version (3.0) of their Android software, and there were a few tablets announced that use it. Google showed a video highlighting the Google Books reading experience. Most any Android device can act as a Kindle, nook, Kobo, Google Books, etc. reader as well, but the new version of Android brings a new level of slickness and seems focused on competing with the iPad.
The ASUS Pad MeMO and Motorola’s XOOM are examples of these Android devices, both 7″ touch-screen tablets that will sell for about $500.
E Ink Holdings produces almost all the screens used in reflective-screen readers like the Kindle and nook, and have shown demonstrations of color versions of their screens for about a year now. Finally, Hanvon’s color e-ink tablet is the first such device to actually be announced as a shipping product. In the pictures the display seems washed out and the page-turning time is quoted as “two seconds” — yikes. The fact that neither Amazon nor Sony have announced a product using the color e-ink technology that E Ink Holdings developed makes me think they don’t believe it’s ready. (More: Engadget.)
Qualcomm’s Mirasol screen, a competitor to E Ink Holdings, has demonstrated a color reflective display but hasn’t actually been part of a product yet. A few blogs report that PocketBooks USA will ship a device in 2011 that will run Android (like the nook). If it’s like other PocketBooks readers, it will not be tied to a publisher’s book store. (More:
Engadget, Pocket Lint, TechNewsDaily.)
Blackberry’s Playbook will come pre-loaded with Kobo’s e-book reader. The Playbook seems to be aimed as another iPad competitor, but it will use its own new operating system (“QNX”) that won’t run other Blackberry apps. It will come with a Web browser built on Webkit, the same technology that Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari browsers use — this means that Web-based readers (like Google Books) should work well with it. (More: Crackberry, GadgetReview, Engadget.)
ASUS Eee Tablet has a monochrome non-backlit LCD screen (this seems to have better response time than e-ink — 0.2 seconds is what they say, and that has to be faster than my Kindle), a stylus, and seems pitched as a reader and note-taker. (More: Nexus404, Engadget.)