Last week, Barnes & Noble leaked information about a dual-screen e-reader running Google’s Android OS that it will announce this week. Today, Fremont, Calif.-based Spring Design sought to beat B&N to the punch. It announced an e-reader device, called Alex, with the same features, a six-inch E-Ink display for e-book content supplemented by a 3.5-inch touch-enabled LCD screen that allows Web browsing.
Unlike B&N, Spring Design is talking explicitly about augmenting e-book content with Web and multimedia, which I speculated about last week. This is potentially exciting stuff, promising to add to the reading experience (if done right) and support better annotation (though no clear explanation is given about social features that might be enabled by annotation in the Alex). According to the press release:
The revolutionary Alex livens up text with multimedia links, adding a new dimension to the reading experience and potentially creating a whole new industry for secondary publications that supplement and enhance original text.
Whether text needs “livening up” with multimedia or not is debatable. Text on the electronic page certainly needs to be networked and extended to provide new reading experiences.
Book provider partners and wireless service providers have not been signed up, but Spring Design expects to begin shipping the Wi-Fi, 3G, EV-Do and GSM compatible Alex later this year. Pricing is not specified.
The company describes its device as the “first Google Android-based e-book with full browser capabilities and patented dual screen” despite the B&N leak of last week. It’s an ominous sign for a market when everyone is racing to pre-announce hardware. If the number of Android dual-screen gizmos keeps multiplying at this rate, there will be tribble-load of them in weeks. There’s my second Star Trek reference of the day.
Notable question: Since Android is the common feature of both these devices, and both rely on two screens, does this point to a generation of two-screen Android devices? Video players, for example, that let you watch a movie on one screen and use Facebook or Google Wave in another? Now, imagine an Android-powered TV….
Thanks to Christopher Dawson for the pointing to this news.