By Harry McCracken | Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 10:34 pm
E-reader maker Plastic Logic has been giving its gadget a fascinating slow-motion rollout. It first showed it to reporters more than a year ago at the DEMO show. Then showed it at the Consumer Electronics Show last January. Then it re-revealed it at the D conference. And now it’s saying it’ll “unveil” it at next January’s CES.
It’s also telling us what the name is for the first time–Que–and has revealed a couple of sexy photos which steer clear of revealing the full monty. (The device has been seen repeatedly in all its full-frontali glory in public, but I’m assuming the final industrial design has been kept under wraps.)
Plastic Logic says it’ll say how much Que costs and when it’ll be available at CES; the company obviously doesn’t have any issues with discussing a product long before it’s available, so it’s not a given that next January’s unveiling is proof positive that the device will go on sale in early 2010.
When Plastic Logic started touting its e-reader, its only real competition were the original Amazon.com Kindle and the Sony Reader. The industry’s undergone radical change since then, with the release of the Kindle 2 (recently further revised) and Kindle DX and multiple new Sonys, Best Buy’s rollout of the iRex, and the apparent imminent announcement of a contender from Barnes and Noble. By the time it shows up, it may even be compared to an Apple tablet.
The Plastic Logic device seems to have evolved in response to all this competition even before it ever shipped–for instance, it’ll have 3G connectivity via AT&T, a feature which the company didn’t mention at first. But the Que’s original signature feature was its 8.5″-by-11″ screen and PDF support, and Amazon has already matched those features with the DX. Amazon’s U.S. and International Wireless version of the Kindle 2, like the Que, uses AT&T. And it looks like the Que will find itself competing with the company that’s powering its bookstore: Barnes & Noble.
One thing that hasn’t changed about Plastic Logic’s device is its emphasis on business user. It’s coined the term “proReader” to describe the Que, says it’ll support PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and promises unspecified “powerful tools for interactive with and managing the content.” It sounds like a logical way to differentiate the product in what will be a rather noisy market, mostly populated by products from companies larger than Plastic Logic. But I’ll still be glad when it’s finally possible to judge the Que in the only way that’s truly satisfying: In our own hands, with our own eyes.