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Vegas: The British are here

Rory Cellan-Jones | 17:20 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

So CES is just about to open its doors and I have sneaked in for a quick look around.

There are, dozens of people making last minute adjustments to their stands - the Samsung booth is a towering masterpiece of thick pile carpet and what appear to be 30ft high LED mirrored in the ceiling to look even more spectacular.

All the buzz is about 3D TV and about slate/tablet computers following Steve Ballmer's keynote speech last night.

But from what Ive seen so far two products from British companies really have the "wow" factor.

I've just come from the Plastic Logic press conference where they've finally unveiled the Que e-reader I wrote about last week. It looks and feels very good - a much better way of reading a newspaper than Amazon's Kindle provides.

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But there are still two concerns for me.

Is there really a big market in travelling executives who need access to their documents and don't want to open a laptop because that's the Que's target audience?

And I still think it's likely that Apple may come thundering over the horizon and take the e-reader market by storm.

The other product is from Light Blue Optics, another Cambridge based firm which is showing off a mini projector which turns any surface into a touch sensitive screen.

I played with it for a while, watching then pausing a movie, moving photos around much as you would on Microsoft's Surface computer, and playing a game by simply tapping on the table.

It's great technology but unlike Plastic Logic, Light Blue Optics isn't marketing the Light Touch product direct to consumers but licensing it. Less risky perhaps for a small company in a world where fighting for consumers' attention is a struggle.

Anyway the doors are about to open, its showtime in Vegas and there are more gadgets to seek out.


  • Comment number 1.

    I had been looking forward to the launch of this reader, but it's a design disaster. The deep frame around the screen is just horrible and as a whole the product looks cheap and nasty.
    I don't doubt that the technology will sell, we want lighter and cheaper readers, but by comparison with the tactile beauty inherent in Sony's readers, our boffins have given us a dog.
    Business users, and I am assuming it's price will be what excludes it from normal consumers, will expect their expensive gadget to look flash and expensive. That looks like it was made in my dad's shed.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think they have missed the market here a bit. Yes aiming them at businessmen is a good idea but with all the books available in cambridge library (both hardcopys and as the e-readers) wouldn't it have been better to start by introducing the idea to students? After carrying home a quarter of my body weight in books this christmas (and being told not to board a plane with them?!) If I was offered the chance to buy a durable, realistic e-reader I would have put it top of my christmas list. So many students at all universities need books, a pay-to-hire or pay-to-buy service would, I think, have a realistic market and with nothing else out there, fill a gap with long-term prospects.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is easily my favourite eReader so far, but the cost is going to put the average purchaser off. I think Rachel's right, it would have been a shoo-in for students, and I'm interested to see whether it's picked up in LA now Schwarzenegger has decided to go paperfree for textbooks. I'm not sure pitching it solely at businessmen in a recession was the best idea...

  • Comment number 4.

    There is a looming issue with 3d that I get the feeling people are simply ignoring in the hope it will go away.

    You have to wear 3d glasses.

    And for many people, that will be a turn off in the long run. The manufacturers are just hoping that people will buy without thinking about the awkwardness of it all too closely.

    And ...

    There is a looming issue with touch screen tablets that I get the feeling people are simply ignoring in the hope it will go away.

    A keyboard

    Oh, and having the screen at a comfortable angle.

    Our eldest bought herself a small Mac laptop as a treat when she finished her GCSEs. Lots of her friends have one and she thought it would be nice and an added bonus as she started her A-Levels.

    And guess what? She does most of her homework on the desktops. The reason is that a good desktop keyboard is much faster to use, the monitor is at an ideal height (and nice and big) and she can spread her papers around without burying the computer.

    Take that one stage further and give someone a computer with no keyboard at all, and you are looking at something that is really a pain. As a reader, these are fine, but they do not replace a laptop (which is a poor replacement for a desktop), so in the end the manufacturers are hoping that all the business people are going to carrying TWO devices?

    They must be hoping for lots of unwanted birthday prezzie sales.

  • Comment number 5.

    As a business user I like the idea of being able to read docs on the go. Reading stuff on a laptop is not the most pleasant method so the QUE reader does look useful. The downside is that it is another bit of kit to cart around :-(

    As for Apples mythical entry into the market I'm not so sure they will take over. They have a tendency to want to lock people into their own ecosystem so I can see them not allowing you to add your own content. e-readers need e-ink screens, other types just do not work for long term reading so a jack of all trades device wont cut it as an e-reader. Also Apple do not have a great track record for battery life on their smaller devices.

  • Comment number 6.

    Could you in theory have a plastic ereeder on one side and a 'slate' computer on the other? That would definitely be worth it...

  • Comment number 7.

    #3. nkkingston: "I'm interested to see whether it's picked up in LA now Schwarzenegger has decided to go paperfree for textbooks."

    The Governor has no say in what Los Angeles schools do - the Los Angeles Unified School District makes such decisions. With the current economic situation, it's highly unlikely that taxpayers, whether city or state, would approve such an expense for the very small number of publications now available.

  • Comment number 8.

    You would need a HD TV to even approach the resolution of modern computer monitors. If you can afford one of those you can afford a PC. Also why would I want the net on the TV? We already have perfectly capable devices for doing that and they can even be used while someone watches a program on the TV. I have never been sold on this idea that one device will do everything. For one thing when it breaks you have lost everything, literally. In both the natural world and our technological one you find the most robust systems are the ones with the highest diversity.

    Back in the early '80s my father bought one of the early computers that plugged into the TV. I thought we had come further than that, it seems not.

  • Comment number 9.

    One thing that all the reviews on Que Reader seems to miss is to answer the question whether the device has a built in web browser. If not, why the hell not.


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