Author: Castelluccio, Michael
Date published: February 1, 2010
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been held each January in Las Vegas since 1967. The show has quite an impressive history of firsts, debuting the first VCR in 1970, the Commodore 64 computer in 1981, Tetris in 1988, DVDs in 1996, and the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) in 1999, among many other new technologies. This year featured the portable computer in the form of Web tablets, netbooks, and new e-Readers. The Apple tablet didn't make an appearance, but many others were there.
Two interesting devices that have similar functions in very different formats were the Lenovo U1 Hybrid notebook/ tablet and the Skiff steel e-Reader, with its largest and highest-resolution electronic display.
The Lenovo U1 looks like a conventional notebook computer with a nice, high-definition screen and reasonablesize keyboard.With a sideways push on a button on top, the detachable screen lifts out of its hinged backing and becomes a thin, very portable tablet. It's actually now a different computer. Attached to the base, it's a computer with an Intel Core 2 processor running on Windows 7. Detatched, it's a Web tablet with a touchscreen interface and an ARM Snapdragon processor running a Linux operating system. The unique, dual computer format will be available this June.
SAVING THE PRESS
For years, the situation has been getting more and more desperate for newspapers and magazines in their traditional (500-year-old) paper-and-ink format. Advertising isn't providing the buoyancy necessary, and major titles are sinking with increasing frequency.Many think the solution will come in the form of a new business model on the Internet, but that grail has yet to be discovered. There are news websites like Politico.com that claim to be profitable, but the other online counterparts of the conventional press, like NYTimes.com, are still stumbling around.
Some media specialists see the salvation, or, more accurately, the successful transition, coming in the form of a new delivery system for newspapers. The survivors, they claim, won't depend on the flat panel on your desk at home or in the office, but rather on some kind of electronic daily news reader carried in your briefcase or found lying on the kitchen table.
The news tablet isn't exactly a new idea. Sixteen years ago, the Knight Ridder Information Design Lab proposed a large, page-size tablet that would download your daily newspaper with all of its advertising and some additional audio-visual information. This tablet was never developed because screen technology at the time was just too limited and advertising streams were still comfortably flowing. Not so today.When the publisher of The New York Times publicly laments that his paper is dying, the rising tide that he blames may drown all but a few publications.
Enter Hearst's Skiff. Unveiled at this year's CES, this slate format reader is described as competition for the now almost 50 different varieties of e-Book readers, but that isn't the reason for the 120-year-old publisher's backing. Hearst is looking for a new format for its magazines and newspapers that doesn't involve a press. In its current design, the Skiff is a black-and-white reader, but a color edition is promised for later this year. No surprise, the front page shown on the product photos at the show was of one of Hearst's most famous imprints, the San Francisco Chronicle.
The technical specs on the Skiff are amazing. It has the largest page size of any electronic reader (9" × 11") to more easily accommodate the layouts for newspaper and magazine pages. Even better, the resolution of the print is a world-class 1,200 × 1,600 pixels (UXGA-quadruple that of SVGA). It has a full touchscreen that responds to both fingers or stylus, with no printer's ink to smudge your fingers.
The Skiff is sleek, weighing just slightly more than one pound (17.56 oz.) and about a quarter of an inch thick (0.268 in.). And you won't be able to break the screen because it isn't made of glass or plastic. It has the first metal-foil e- Paper display constructed of silicon thin-film transistors (TFT) on a flexible stainless-steel substrate. You won't want to be training the puppy by tapping him on the nose with a rolled up copy of this newspaper. But if you do leave it on the couch, your mastiff could sit on it, and it would survive.
The Skiff 's battery will last for a week of page turning, and it recharges in two to three hours. Content delivery is via WiFi and 3G connections or through a direct USB hookup to your computer.Whichever you choose, your paper or magazines can be scheduled for automatic downloads. On-board memory is 4GB, with an additional SD card slot for a larger library. There's a built-in speaker and audio jack.
Will newspapers like The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have a better chance of survival with delivery over the Skiff? The publishers have been slow to react to their revenue problems, but this could work for them and the other venues planned for it. Skiff is setting up a Skiff Store online to deliver newspapers, magazines, books, and blogs.
By Michael Castelluccio, Editor