Asus Preparing Cheap E-Book Reader
An Asus prototype includes wireless connectivity and two screens separated by a hinged spine. Starting price would be about $165.
Asus, which shook up the laptop market in 2007 with the introduction of the first inexpensive netbook, is planning to launch an electronic-book reader this year that would challenge the most popular e-readers on price.
Without offering much in the way of details, Asus President Jerry Shen told the Times of London that the company is planning to offer a budget and a premium version. Prices could start as low as 100 pounds, or about $165.
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If the final product resembles a prototype developed by Asus research and development department, then it would include a wireless connection and dual screens separated by a hinged spine, so the e-reader could open up like a book. Asus could choose to include a Web browser, Webcam, microphone and other PC-like features, the newspaper reported Tuesday. The e-reader's screens would support color, unlike the black-and-white displays used on e-readers today.
If the Asus device offers color, then it won't use the same high-definition technology from E Ink that makes it possible to read on the Sony and Amazon devices even in sunlight. E Ink does not make color displays.
Nevertheless, the high price of today's e-readers is a problem, if manufacturers hope to penetrate the mainstream market. Asus' device would be less than the $200 and $299 starting prices of Sony's and Amazon's e-readers, respectively.
However, even at the lower Asus price, the device might still be too expensive for most consumers. A recent study by Forrester Research found that e-book readers would have to be priced a $50 in order to reach the widest range of U.S. consumers. Such a price, however, would be less than the cost of components used in today's products.
Asus introduced the Eee PC netbook two years, launching a sub-$300 mini-laptop that became the fastest growing category of the PC market.
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