published Friday, January 15th, 2010

Jenkins: E-readers hot items at Las Vegas electronics show


by Donnie Jenkins
Audio clip

TECHcast: Donnie Jenkins podcast on e-book readers. 01/15/10

This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was different from past shows in many respects. Probably the biggest news was the large number of tablets and e-book readers announced. It's difficult to draw a clear line of distinction between these two types of devices, but generally they break down like this:

* E-book readers tend to be dedicated devices designed to present books, magazines and newspapers in digital form. There were at least 10 such devices announced at CES, and many more were rumored to be in production. I tend to dislike the notion of a device that can only be used for one task, but the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and others have proved that there is a demand for these.

* Tablets are generally defined as notching between cell phones and laptops in size and function, although there is no reason they could not be larger or smaller. Tablets are usually considered to be fully functional devices similar to a computer or phone that can perform several tasks, including an e-book reader function in some.

There is no clear line of demarcation here yet between e-book readers and tablets as some models of each tend to move into the other's area at times. This will probably change as the market defines itself and sorts out what products will be popular.

One big, mysterious factor in the tablet/e-book reader area is Apple. It seems more likely all the time that they will be moving into this product area, although it's by no means certain. The company has scheduled a press event for the end of January and the constant refrain online is that the long-suffering Apple tablet seekers will get their wish.

I've long ago learned not to assume anything about Apple, regardless of the "for sure this time" rumor mill. It does look more likely that they will announce some new product at the upcoming event, and we can only hope it will be such a Tablet PC device.

My favorite e-book/tablet announcement was not a device but a platform that could run on several devices. Ray Kurzweil announced the Blio platform for digital content, and the videos they showed are impressive and very forward thinking. The content is attractive, can be interactive and receive live feeds from the Web, and should adapt to any enabled digital device that runs the Blio platform. The company announced that they already have closed deals for content from several providers and should be in production shortly. Look for magazines, textbooks and perhaps newspapers to find a home here -- very impressive.

There were a few other promising introductions in the e-book and tablet product space, a few of which I discuss in this week's podcast. I will of course be updating you as these products are shipped and I get a chance to try them out.

Finally, USB 3.0 is soon to be with us. This next generation of the common USB connector is incredibly fast and will be great for hard drive and printer technology. Video and audio professionals in particular will benefit greatly from its updated speed and efficiency.

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