TOC's Wednesday devices, gadgets and ereaders update

With IFA Consumer Electronics Unlimited just days away, this week brings plenty of buzz about new ereaders, tablets and more.

With the IFA Consumer Electronics Unlimited techno-smorgasbord set to open this Friday, there’s a lot of buzz going around about upcoming announcements and unveilings. Much of the pre-show buzz is centered around Android-based competition for the Apple iPad.

The IFA traditionally offers an early indication of what gadgets will sell well through Christmas. With order volume stemming from last year’s show reaching nearly $3.8 billion, it’s no wonder so much attention is focused on the show .

Toshiba’s SmartPad

Toshiba SmartPad

Images of the new Toshiba SmartPad were recently leaked, but with little concrete information about the device. Some news sources are claiming that the new Android 2.2-powered device will actually be called the Toshiba Folio 100. There may also be a Windows 7 version of the SmartPad as well. Little is available from Toshiba itself other than the device is set to ship in October. This is one of the devices that is expected to be unveiled at IFA.

ViewSonic ViewPad 7


With a screen that measures 7-inches across, the ViewPad is jokingly being referred to as the world’s largest phone. Featuring both a touchscreen tablet, the ViewPad also provides a slot for a full-sized SIM card that will offer both voice and 3G data. In addition, the ViewPad will feature a 3 megapixel front- and back-facing camera. The device will run Android 2.2. ViewSonic has not unveiled pricing or availability — those details will probably be announced at IFA. However, industry analyst reports indicate that the device will be around $550 and launch sometime in October.

Archos Android Internet tablets


This week brought the announcement from Archos that they were launching five new Android tablets. The tablets include web-browsing, games, ebook, social networking, and HD video and music. Prices range from $99.99 to $349.99. The Archos 28 and 32 are slated for release this month. Models 43, 70, and 101 are scheduled for later this fall. [Editor’s Note: Archos’ product names include a smaller adjacent number.]

Sharper Image Literati


Once a common occupant in malls throughout the US, Sharper Image has fallen on tough times — filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2008. While the only thing that remains of the company is their website, that hasn’t prevented them from joining the ereader fray.

Resembling the Amazon Kindle, the Kobo-powered color ereader will launch at $160. Featuring a QWERTY keyboard below a 7-inch screen, the ereader lacks a web browser and application functionality, clearly putting it in the standalone ereader category. Expected to arrive in October, the Literati will be available from a number of retailers, including Best Buy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, Kohl’s and Macy’s.

Acer LumiRead


Trying to build upon their netbook success, Acer recently announced its LumiRead ereader device. Based on a 6-inch E Ink display, the LumiRead will feature a Kindle-style QWERTY keyboard below the screen. When combined with either the 3G or WI-FI models, the LumiRead’s Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliance makes the ereader capable of streaming music from Acer’s own system and third-party streaming services. The LumiRead also includes a built-in web browser with a “Smart Download” feature, which allows the LumiRead to save local versions of web pages for reading later when the device is disconnected from the Internet.

The LumiRead will come with access to the Barnes & Nobles ebook store as well as, Germany’s leading Internet book retailer. While no prices have been announced, rumors suggest the LumiRead will start shipping in October for around $316.

SigmaTek eReaders


Coming in a 5-inch and a 7-inch ereader, the devices from Sigmatek Computer both feature a TFT display capable of a 800×480 resolution. These devices offer multimedia features that include support for AVI, XviD, and MKV video, with MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and OGG music formats.

From the start, these ereaders may be playing catch-up because the devices are not equipped with connectivity to any application or ebook store. Some may see this as an advantage because it means the ereaders will be open to grab EPUB, PDF and TXT files from anywhere. In stores in October, the 5-inch model will cost approximately $127 and the 7-inch approximately $153.

Other announcements from the world of ereaders

Following a similar deal with retailer Target, Staples will start selling Amazon’s Kindle in its stores this autumn. While expanding the number of channels for selling Kindle devices is key, according to Chris Brogan, Amazon’s willingness to port their Kindle application to other ereader platforms may become their most important channel.

According to an SEC filing by electronics manufacturer LG, they could be mass-producing 9.7-inch color and 9-inch flexible e-paper displays by the end of the year. According to an analyst at Forrester, the availability of flexible screens could greatly improve the durability of ereaders. While flexible ereaders from Skiff and Plastic Logic have failed in the past due to heavy pricing competition, a mass-produced display from LG could level the pricing playing field and bring about new ereader innovations.

Finally, as part of a unique, year-long Notre Dame study of ereaders, the university debuted their first class taught entirely using the Apple iPad. The iPad will replace the textbook previously used in assistant professor Corey Angst’s project management course. Members of the study are evaluating the iPad with the broader goal of designing an epublishing ecosystem

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