Asus states that not only will the new devices be more intelligent and versatile than current competition, but cheaper too. Although there is little information concerning the exact details of the finished product, Shen hinted at the availability of a budget as well as a premium version.
The prototype, which features a full colour double touch screen; thus opening like a book and permitting the user to effectively turn the virtual pages, also converts into a keypad, transforming the device into a laptop, complete with microphone and speakers; facilitating the use of internet and Skype.
Clearly recognising the market for gadgets on a budget, Asus is expected to retail its cheapest model for around £100 -an impressive £89 less than the nearest competitor in the UK market, the Cool-er.
The devices currently leading the field in this type of technology, the Sony Daily Edition and Amazon's Kindle, will still not be available outside the US for another few months, and are considerably more expensive, owing to their integral 3G mobile-phone Sim cards.
Whether the low price of the device will increase the level of interest in the e-reader in the UK remains to be seen: retail analyst GfK puts the current number of devices bought there at less than 80,000 to date.
Without doubt, the availability of a cheaper model could render the device more appealing to the younger consumer, and the possibility of purchasing books, magazines and newspapers anytime and anywhere and then being able to read them immediately, is a huge part of the appeal of e-readers with wireless connectivity.
Could e-readers become a significant part of newspapers' business model? Amazon currently offers Kindle users subscriptions to more than 58 newspapers and magazines and Plastic Logic has already partners with many publications in advance of its release next year. Newspapers only receive one third of the subscription revenue that readers pay on the Kindle, but they might manage to strike more lucrative deals with other companies, and advertising could enhance this revenue if this were integrated.
Owing to the fact that Asus e-reader is the approximately the size of an average paperback, it is maybe not the most suitable choice for hard-core newspaper readers. The anticipated release of Plastic Logic's e-reader early next year, with a screen that is more than double the size, could be more appealing. But Asus' promise of a full colour product (unlike the other devices on offer, which are greyscale) that is multi-functional, could be attractive enough to users to merit attention from newspaper publishers.
Source: The Times