Asus Turns Attention From Netbooks to E-Readers


Asus is hoping to do for the e-reader market what it did for PCs when it introduced the first netbook, with reported plans to release two models before the end of the year

Asus is planning to enter the e-reader market later this year with at least one, if not two, devices, The Times has reported.

The company that invented the netbook is innovating again, as the design ideas it shared with the Times would surely shake up the market. Unlike the single, flat screens of current e-readers – such as the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Plastic Logic Reader – the Asus version would feature two screens on a hinged spine, more exactly mimicking the look and feel of a book.

Additionally, the Asus e-reader would feature full colour, instead of the monocolour screens its competitors use, for a realistic ink-on-paper look. It would also feature touch-screens and offer online connectivity. Consequently, readers would have the option of reading on one page and pulling up a web page – with supplemental materials, for example – on the other, making it a natural educational tool.

Another option, the newspaper reported, is for the second screen to act as an on-screen keyboard, enabling the e-reader to be used like a laptop. A webcam, speakers and a microphone for Skype will additionally be included.

“Our ethos is innovation – as our brand is less well known, we have to run faster than the competition to develop new types of products,” a spokesman for Asus told the Times.

“Any such product – including an e-reader – has to have the right combination of functionality and price. No one is going to buy one for £1,000.”

Asus is said to be working on ‘budget’ and ‘premium’ versions. The premium is likely the double-screen version described above. The budget model, dubbed the Eee Reader, after the company’s Eee PC netbook line, is expected to be more traditional, though to compete at a considerably lower price point. The Times reports that Asus will likely try for a price of £100 British pounds (€114).

In a July 29 report, Forrester Research found that the e-reader market was growing, “albeit from a very small base,” according to report author Sarah Rotman. She concluded that the market would grow once prices fell.

“While some will jump on board when prices hit $199 [£121] in 2010, others will hold out for a $99 [£60] device in 2012 or a $99 E Ink screen accessory for PCs and smartphones that could (and should) come out sooner,” she wrote.

In a 1 September report, Forrester reiterated the same growth, forecasting that interest would rise as prices dropped. The same author predicted that e-readers wouldn’t reach the purchase numbers of MP3 players – which in 2009, 61 percent of the US online population owns – but that digital cameras, which took 10 years to reach 50 million US consumers, were a more likely model.

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