Mobility

PlasticLogic QUE: Could it steal business users away from an Apple slate?

At CES, PlasticLogic unveiled its QUE proReader, which could turn out to be the product that draws business users away from the Apple tablet.

At the CES 2010 opening keynote, the tech world was disappointed that Microsoft didn't deliver a stronger potential competitor to the forthcoming Apple tablet. However, as the sun was rising the next morning, a startup called PlasticLogic hosted an event to unveil its QUE proReader, which could turn out to be the product that draws business users away from the Apple slate.

While it officially launched on Thursday at CES, the QUE has been a known entity for months. It's largely been thought of as an e-reader aimed at business users since PlasticLogic previously announced partnerships with Barnes & Noble and a variety of business trade publications.

At the launch, PlasticLogic CEO Richard Archuleta said, "We aren't trying to create the paperless office or the paperless bookshelf, but the paperless briefcase."

While the QUE proReader is meant to be a great reading device - it has new display technology called truVue designed in partnership with Adobe - the QUE has ambitions that go much further than ebooks. While most ereaders and tablet computers are focused on consumers, the QUE is laser-focused on business users.  For example, here are some ways that the QUE integrates with common vendors and technologies used by businesses:

  • Microsoft Office - Displays Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents and integrates with Exchange mailboxes
  • BlackBerry - A QUE app will allow users to transfer data from BlackBerry to QUE
  • Good Technology - Wireless sync with Microsoft Exchange inbox and calendar
  • Windows and Mac - Print documents to the QUE just like you would to a standard printer; this is called "print to device"

Clearly, this is designed to be a productivity device and not an entertainment device. As you can see in the photo above, the QUE homepage has your daily calendar on the left, your content on the right, and your Favorites and the QUE Store along the bottom.

The problem is the price. The 4GB WiFi-only model costs $650 and the 8GB WiFi/3G model sells for $800. When PlasticLogic announced the pricing at their CES press conference, there was literally a stunned silence among all of tech reporters.

This price point puts the QUE in direct competition with many tablet computers. Is there anyone who would rather have the black-and-white QUE than a slate PC in full color? The obvious answer would seem to be, "No."

However, the QUE does have a few things going for it. The super-slim form factor is going to be thinner than any tablet. The "print-to-device" and BlackBerry integration will lower the friction for getting documents to the QUE and improve ease-of-use. The battery life will be much better than a tablet.

With all that in mind, I think we could see some executives and senior business managers choosing the QUE proReader over tablet and slate computers, even the much-anticipated Apple device. While a few tech writers, such as BNET's Erik Sherman, have suggested that the Apple tablet will be aimed at businesses, I expect that it will be a consumer device aimed at aggregating various types of media content from periodicals to video to Web articles.

If the QUE is going to win the battle for the business user, it will be with its simplicity and its specialization for executives. For some of them, the QUE may be a more attractive way to replace a stack of documents and a stack of newspapers and magazines when they go on the road or even when they travel locally to business meetings. However, I think the QUE will need the promise of a color screen in the next version of the product. A QUE proReader with a Mirasol display, like the ones we saw at CES, would be pretty compelling.

For more details on the QUE, watch the video clips below that I took at the product's launch at CES.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

14 comments
Threv
Threv

Considering the Apple Tablet is still Vaporware w/no clearly spelled out Role I think its premature for a one product that has been barely released to a product that that only exists in press releases. That said $600-800 for B/W slate with no real input.. Not going to happen you'd be better off with netbook. Heck for 800 my company buys sweet and powerful HP Elitebooks. I know my Budget office would not go for it, nor my users. Or better yet just keep your Droid or Blackberry.. (See what I did there?)

david.brady
david.brady

Yes this will win business users with specific needs - for instance anyone working outdoors requiring access to data (your real traditional paper user) site/building surveys etc - already have requests for this in combination with data capture (BBerry/digi pen etc)

s31415
s31415

It is not a competitor for any tablet, because it doesn't work as a tablet. Unless I'm mistaken, you can make basic annotations, but not create hand-written documents. If it was working like a tablet, then it would reach its goal of eliminating paper and would maybe be worth its price.

cbellur
cbellur

I can see the QUE being popular with businesses. After all I get a new laptop from a very big business and it is the cheapest piece o' crap there is. I got one last year -- 40GB hard drive. So yeah, I could see penny pinching businesses giving this to their top people after their 200mhz Pentium laptop with 256mb of RAM dies on them...

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Currently there is no Apple Slate so that is a big NO!

realturk
realturk

thanx seo web tasarım | seo

MykelAlvis
MykelAlvis

I'd have to see how effectively the integration was implemented, but I think $800 is just a bit out of range for what amounts to a somewhat over-powered ebook reader.

Olivier-
Olivier-

Have you noticed that the boss doesn't use one for his notes of the presentation? He uses a few paper notes!

ken
ken

?We aren?t trying to create the paperless office or the paperless bookshelf, but the paperless briefcase.? Today's briefcase is a laptop case. Why would I want to carry BOTH this (or any other) eReader AND a laptop? The only reason I can think of for carrying both is that the eReader would be for reference stuff (magazines, books, PDFs, etc.) & the laptop for active stuff (email, contracts, documents, spreadsheets, etc.). My laptop does just fine at allowing me to access electronic content, and it allows me to INTERACT with that content. I can not only view something, I can edit - or, oh my gosh!, I can create something! Believe it or not, even executives need the ability to have two-way electronic communications. Give me an eDevice that allows me to leave my laptop at home, has exceptional battery life, has a big, beautiful, bright (color) screen, and you might convince me to buy one.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But we've had tablets for years, and nobody here wants them outside of the niches we purchased them for. They great for what we bought them for, but too slow and have too small a screen for everyday use as replacements for conventional laptops.

GS 059
GS 059

If they had a way for someone to easily write on it (like a pen/stylus), with word/letter recognition, I would personally use this at work almost every day.

cbellur
cbellur

You would really prefer some pen and handwriting recognition? Hmmm... Remember the Newton? The rumor I hear about the Apple tablet is that they filed patents for touch feedback. Appearantly, when there is a keyboard on the screen, it will feel almost like one. Also, remember how expensive the iPhone is and how well it is doing. Yeah, businesses are extremely pennywise and poundfoolish. The very large company I work for gives us the cheapest Windows XP PCs and the developers have to re-image them all the time. If they just gave is Mac Books, sure, they're more expensive, but you don't lose 2 weeks out of the year when the developers need to reimage, re-install, and re-configure. Of course, the company I work for admitted they are not good at fostering software development. NO DUH!

Turd Furgeson
Turd Furgeson

the biggest reason to re-image is to wipe a pc clean when you give it to someone else. Wouldn't a tablet or Mac book be the same?

Editor's Picks