What Needs To Hit eReaders? Web Browsers, E-mail And Big Batteries

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News Posted: Fri, Sep 11 2009 3:49 PM
It's sort of funny. It's as if Asus read In-Stat's latest report before it even hit the presses. Who knows--maybe they did, or maybe they've just got a great pulse on the industry after sitting back and watching the likes of Amazon, Sony and numerous other Asian firms attempt to nail the whole e-book reader thing.

The research firm's latest report explains that the e-book market is still growing in the US and around the globe, with the main areas for improvement being longer battery life, Internet connectivity and e-mail. Sounds pretty elementary, but by and large, today's batch of readers only feature a few (or one) of those, and not all three. Take the market-leading Kindle for example. It has integrated WWAN through Sprint, but that only enables users to download new books on the go. Users can't check their e-mail or surf the Web, which is evidently a real bummer to most. Stephanie Ethier, In-Stat analyst, had this to say about the findings:

"According to In-Stat’s most recent consumer survey, current e-book owners desire email capability in the next e-book they purchase. Longer battery life and Internet connectivity are the top two desired features among respondents who don’t currently own an e-book but plan to buy one in the next year."


The survey also found that Amazon is the leading brand of e-book owned, with the largest percentage of e-book owners (45.5%) spending between $9 and $20 a month on e-book content. As with Asus' forthcoming dual-panel reader, you can see that Web browsing would be entirely more feasible with two panes. We know battery life may take a hit, but we get the feeling that users would only tap into their reader's Internet browser occasionally, and most wouldn't use that browser more than a laptop or smartphone browser.

So, what about you? Would you be more apt to purchase an eReader if Web browsing was loaded on and you could check up on your e-mail between chapters?
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3vi1 replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:22 PM

>> current e-book owners desire email capability in the next e-book they purchase

No they don't. They wish they had a netbook.

After manufacturers add all of these features to e-Readers, they'll have something akin to an Apple Newton and it will sell for something close to the Newton's original price. And we all bought Apple Newtons, didn't we?

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:26 PM

The point is: the simplicity of the Kindle is not something to be "fixed", it's the main reason it appeals to such a large audience. It's also the reason it's going to beat all new competitors when it comes to price.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:37 PM

OMG this sucks. I am working on a patent for the same type of device, although it is more functional than this one, it is very close to the same thing. I just started submitting it to the patent office at the start of this week.

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:38 PM

I am talking about the Asus device not the Kindle.

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Dave_HH replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 6:56 PM

Well,I think a thin client interface for mail and web is a natural for these. Not sure, aside from the radio why it should consume that much more power.

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Kyouya replied on Fri, Sep 11 2009 7:14 PM

Sigh...consumers just want a cheaper way to access the internet. Differentiation is bound to be lost soon...

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ClemSnide replied on Sat, Sep 12 2009 1:57 AM

>And we all bought Apple Newtons, didn't we?

We sure did, 3vi1! At lesat, those of us who wanted the best pocket computer did. I'm still waiting for a netbook or smartphone to have all the features of my MP2100.

In the meantime, however, this particular ebook shopper wouldn't pay a lot more for Internet capability in an ereader. What I WOULD pay for is improved universal access-- the remote deletion scandal turned me completely off to Kindle, but the removal of (even its somewhat clunky) text-to-speech dropped it a few notches even before that.

I do own a computer, as some of you may be aware; I view an ebook reader as a peripheral, not an independent system. Given a good dictionary and space for multiple Project Gutenberg or other public-domain books, given a legible screen in both light and dark conditions, and perhaps given accessories (notepad, clock/calendar) or, better, the opportunity to roll your own addons; given all these I'd buy it.

Even if I had to wait an hour or so to check email.


"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Sep 12 2009 9:16 AM

They probably saved you a lot of time getting sued in your place (if you planned on actively creating/selling the device). With the current state of patent affairs, there's no doubt that every part of any new computing device violates a dozen prior patents.

I'm of the opinion that the patent system needs a complete overhaul. Idea's should not be patentable, just the implementations. There are companies out there suing everyone who makes an e-reader because they patented the overly-general idea in the mid 90's after seeing its use on Star Trek: TNG for the previous ten years.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Sep 12 2009 11:10 AM

ClemSnide:

We sure did, 3vi1! At lesat, those of us who wanted the best pocket computer did.

I can't dispute that it was a good device.  It just wasn't a sales success.  :)

ClemSnide:

...the removal of (even its somewhat clunky) text-to-speech dropped it a few notches even before that.

Me too.  It's another example of how lawsuits and imaginary property are stifling innovation and ruining usefulness by making it unprofitable to add obvious features.  :(  It's sad that our society is becoming more and more a place where the real money comes not from producing anything, but from suing those who actually follow through on their own independently developed implementation of a common idea.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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ClemSnide replied on Sun, Sep 13 2009 8:05 AM

That's what the courts are for. As much as Americans (and Brits) dislike the system, it's the best way we've found to determine the legality of laws, including patents. The huge rewards that people generally focus on are almost invariably reduced sharply in the appeal process.

And the "ideas which are patented" that hold up in court are not just on the order of "wouldn't it be cool if we had phones that flipped open and went ;eckeckeckeck' like Captain Kirk's?" but rather well-developed designs where all the maths have been done. People shouldn't be punished because they don't have production facilities; academics need love (and cash) too!

If it hadn't been for the patent court, you would either be buying personal computers from Honeywell or Sperry-Rand. Even though working computers were being produced (in an era where IBM President Thomas Watson said "I believe there is a worldwide market for maybe five computers"), the court placed the digital computer in the public domain-- to the benefit of us all.


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3vi1 replied on Sun, Sep 13 2009 3:12 PM

>> That's what the courts are for.... If it hadn't been for the patent court, you would either be buying personal computers from Honeywell or Sperry-Rand.

Patent protection is not what gave us the options we have today: It's the unpatentable nature of the original IBM PC's creation from off-the shelf parts that led to all of our clones and interoperable devices.

Fear of getting sued for actually making a device by some troll (that's not even trying to sell the idea for an actual product to any company) is creating a horrible barrier of entry to anyone that doesn't have a ton of money and a team of lawyers.

People like Hyatt tried to patent the general idea for 20 years and wasted god-knows-how-much taxpayer money and time.

I suppose I might have a different opinion if not for the fact that practically every patent dispute I've ever heard of has been an abuse of the system and bad for consumers (i.e. it raises the cost of the product because companies have to pay off another party for having the same idea, even though they independently developed their own implementation for their product).

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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ClemSnide replied on Sun, Sep 13 2009 7:53 PM

3, I really don't want this to drag on too far; we can agree to disagree, I hope. But I do have to mention that the ubiquitous nature of the IBM-PC was due to reverse engineering, and that's where Microsoft became the behemoth that it is today-- writing custom versions of its operating system that would make programs work on all those knock-off computers. (Not that I'm a big fan of IBM. Or for that matter Microsoft. Or Eagle, Columbia, Franklin, Burroughs, etc.)

The French patent system favors the innovator over the inventor; the Japanese, American, and British systems favor the inventor. I'd suppose that's why the majority of the incredible products in the world today come from France. (Is there an "irony" emoticon?)

While there are some big cases that drag on for years-- the medical technology sector is infamous for this-- most come to some resolution without the benefit of litigation. One of the biggest issues isn't people patenting unsupported ideas (called "Blue Sky," they're always shot down in court) but rather people who come up with recognizably similar systems at more or less the same time. Then, you get into the arena of how close to the patented implementation(s) the product really is, and whether anyone has counterclaims... yes, often times as uncivil as civil courts get, but I will maintain that clever people ought to get paid for their cleverness. The alternative is France.


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andrys replied on Thu, Sep 17 2009 11:01 AM

Hi,

The Kindles, starting with Kindle 1 all have web browsers, although browsing is impossibly slow on the Kindle 1.  It's quite doable on the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, and I do email on it and browse all types of sites to look up things when out on the streets. See some web images from my DX at

www.pbase.com/andrys/kindleplus

I also have tips and guides for using the web browser in more speedy fashion (it’s 24/7 free cellular access) and I use it for lookups in stores, in concerts, hearings). Email is slow going with GMail but it’s doable and I also check yahoo mail.

On the Kindle 2, I show some time with Facebook and with the Amazon forums,

www.pbase.com/andrys/kindle2

Forgive the links, but since you mentioned these are wanted items but the Kindle doesn’t allow it, I needed to let you know it very much does. I also have a file for accessing mobile-optimized sites but you’ll see what I could get with the normal webpage of Engadget at the first link above.

– Andrys
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starwhite replied on Thu, Sep 17 2009 7:30 PM

Just more useless junk I am afraid!

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