A dual screen reader from ASUS is on its way?

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Breaking news that ASUS is expected to release a dual screen reader sounds more like echochamber rumors than real news to me.

Today, Engadget linked to a story from the Times of London indicating that ASUS was planning on releasing a low cost eReader to the market in the months ahead.

The first part of this news I think is correct, namely that ASUS is planning on bringing its Eee PC frugality to the eReader market. That makes sense. If anything, ASUS has shown its ability to break the dollar and cents model and forge ahead with innovative products that are as much about price points as they as about hardware. If ASUS can find the features, price, partners, and more importantly, the software (more interactivity with ink and handwriting recognition), then I can see some exciting days ahead for the reader device market.

However, as to the news of a “higher end” eReader which will sport a dual screen, I don’t buy it. Not yet, anyway. I can’t imagine that right out of the starting gate ASUS would engineer and market two different types of eReaders. A second, hinged screen is not a simple upsell. The engineering differences between a basic, single screen device and a dual screen device, with a multitouch keyboard would be too much.

So what I’d expect early on is to see a basic eReader with some Eee PC-price point with limited features and then a higher end version with a handful of additional features. Some reasonable things to expect I think would include 3G or possibly a network of content or possibly even ink. But a hinged display? Doubt it. A hinged screen eReader with the dual purpose of functioning as a display or virtual keyboard is just too big of a first step.

I’m not saying that a duall screen reader is not a great idea. I like it. However, I doubt that’s where ASUS would start. I imagine they’ll first get their feet wet with a competitively priced unit and learn along the way, possibly building up content partners. Also as part of this first step I can see offering various upgrades to the device such as more storage or a larger display or ink or 3G connectivity. Down the road there’s room for going all out with an innovative eReader design.

Now you may be thinking that the Times of London must have inside knowledge here of an impending dual screen eReader. I doubt it. The article, in fact, starts out by repeating things that were already widely posted on the web about the fact that ASUS would be entering the eReader market. To me it looks like the Times is simply sharing this information with its readers.

Then the article goes on to say that little is known about the eReader, but in Apple-rumor style that doesn’t seem to stop them from suggesting that essentially a CeBit prototype shown months back might actually be the higher end eReader model that news reports were suggestion ASUS would be offering. I just don’t see it–not at first.

I could be wrong, but to me, if I read the article very, very carefully it doesn’t seem like the Times of London is doing much more than printing an account of the ASUS eReader news that others have published and is actually adding very little new news to the story.

I’m skeptical of this dual screen interpretation. Maybe it’s all the years of impending Apple Tablet rumors that’s made me extra careful. It seems like one more instance of people riding on news that others have written. Possibly.

Of course, we’ll have to see. I’d love to be wrong on this one.