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January 08, 2010

Gadgets -PlasticLogic's Que Debuts: A 'ProReader,' Not E-Reader


After promising it for a couple years now, Plastic Logic has reportedly unveiled Que (pronounced “Q, naturally, all you francophones stop snickering), described as a "proReader."
 
"More than an eReader," Que officials said, seeking to avoid direct comparisons with the much cheaper Kindle, the product has an 8.5-by-11-inch form factor touchscreen display, "intuitive user interface and powerful tools."
 
In addition to newspapers, periodicals and eBooks, Que supports reading and annotating document formats, including PDF, Microsoft (News - Alert) Office, ePub documents and others. The Que software lets users convert and transfer content from PC, Macs, or BlackBerrys.

Richard Archuleta, CEO of Plastic Logic, said the Que proReader "was built from the ground up for people who need to read. Starting today, mobile professionals can look forward to a paperless briefcase, a lighter load, and a better way to work.”
 
Frankly, it does look very cool. As "Technologizer" Harry McCracken said, it has "a much richer interface than current e-readers, with a home screen that shows your favorite files, your calendar, and other information, drop-down menus, and drag-and-drop features. It feels a little bit less like an electronic book, and a little more like a computing device that happens to be focused around reading."
 
Pitching it as a business expense might be a smart way to draw attention from the $800 price tag (News - Alert) for the 8 gig version. Compare that with a Kindle, which goes for about half that, and this reporter's free Kindle for iPod Touch app. Granted, it's bare-bones, but when's the last time you used every cotton-pickin' feature on a fancy gizmo? You want a book, you get a book, you read the book, end of story (sorry), no muss, no fuss.

Talk about starting out with a clean sheet of paper: Archuleta says the company was inspired by... a sheet of paper: "Que was designed to have the benefits of paper, but without the weight and clutter. Just like paper, Que is easy to hold and feels good in your hands. But it’s easier to search and find exactly what you’re looking for."

Industry observer Peter Kafka said that the "big idea" behind the Que is that "not only can you read your books and newspapers on the device, which features a touchscreen and e-ink display, but you can work on Microsoft Word, Excel, and other documents."
 
As Kafka said, "the company is positioning the Que as something akin to a netbook that happens not to have a keyboard (this sounds familiar)."

Roughly one-third-inch thick and weighing about a pound, Que has a 10.7-inch shatterproof plastic display which was "ten years in development," company officials say, for a reading experience "that looks and reads just like paper even in direct sunlight."
 
"We wanted to highlight the optical qualities of plastic,” IDEO’s Caroline Fagiello said, who serves as Plastic Logic’s acting creative director. “Think of pools of black ink captured in a glass ink well against a crisp sheet of white linen paper.” Now go write a haiku.

Que users can connect to fresh content on-the-go, on the Que Store and search, purchase and download wirelessly via Wi-Fi and AT&T’s (News - Alert) 3G network. The eBookstore is powered by Barnes & Noble.


David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Amy Tierney
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