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ASUS to build e-reader

According to DigiTimes ASUS is planning on entering the e-Reader market by the end of the year.

This is further indication that the PC market is adapting–despite the traditional key players in the PC business like Microsoft and Intel.

Of course, both Intel and Microsoft can wait and ask themselves whether the e-Reader market is big enough. Although there are signs that for single-manufactured products that there’s enough volume in e-Reader sales, that doesn’t yet appear to be the case for manufacturing networks like Intel and Microsoft rely on.

However, for a company like ASUS the current sales volume may not matter as much. They are nimble enough to take the gamble like they did with the Eee PC which exploded in popularity and helped to create the netbook market. Can ASUS do the same thing for the e-Reader market that it did for netbooks?

Without key players, maybe this is an opportunity for Amazon to license their infrastructure or Kindle details. Actually, ASUS not having any content partner is going to be an issue, that is unless someone like Google or the major bookstores or the publishing industry itself comes up with something that OEMs can use.

I still can’t help but think though that Microsoft is missing out here in part to show how it’s Tablet PC features can adapt into the slate form factor that e-Readers use.

It may be in part that just as Ray Ozzie, of Microsoft, has pointed out: That Microsoft isn’t convinced that there’s a form factor in specialized devices, such as e-Readers that they couldn’t trump with more generic PCs or Tablet PCs (or even iPhones I guess you could argue) that could subsume it’s capabilities. In other words if a PC can do everything that an e-Reader can do, why put effort into making e-Readers?

Of course, that logic leads to conclusions like: Why make cellphones if PCs can do everything cellphones do plus more?

I completely appreciate the argument actually, however, like cameras and cellphones, there really are times when dedicated devices work.

Actually, as I’ve blogged several times before I don’t really think e-Readers should be considered as closed, dedicated devices as they are now. There’s plenty of opportunity to engineer a flexible yet focused, interactive e-Reader platform.

Think of all the pieces an e-Reader form factor needs: Where is an OS shell that can help define a standard? Why aren’t Tablet features like inking and handriting recognition available to e-Reader builders–even as the hardware is marginally there? Why not build an infrastructure for content publishers and app developers that fits the needs of e-Reader manufacturers and users?

And, lastly, it seems to me that done well e-Readers have the potential of morphing into the next evolutionary step for Tablet PCs anyway, much like the iPhone has proven to be for the tablet form factor on the cellphone side.

There’s a lot of innovation to take place here.

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