Que e-reader unveiled for business professionals

Plastic Logic device is the size of a pad of paper

Plastic Logic unveiled its long-promised Que e-reader for business professionals today at the International CES trade show.

Company officials said the device will ship in mid-April in two versions, one is 4GB model with capacity for 35,000 documents at a cost of US$649, and the other an 8GB model that holds 75,000 documents for $799. The 4GB version will operate over Wi-Fi, but the 8GB will operate on Wi-Fi and 3G networks from AT&T Inc. with no added monthly subscription cost, officials said.

Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta showed off the sleek touch-screen device, which is 8.5 in. by 11 in. in size. The display is 10.7 inches diagonally and made of shatterproof plastic, making it the largest display on the e-reader market, Plastic Logiic officials said. It is about .3 in. thick and weighs 17.2 ounces.

The touch screen can be used to annotate documents on a displayed page to circle text or write a word, using a finger or a keyboard. The company has also partnered with publishers and media companies to provide access to newspapers and periodicals including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes and trade journals including Computerworld , Network World and PC World .

Archuleta said the touch screen will better suit the needs of business professionals "who need to read" as opposed to more casual readers who are buying consumer-oriented e-readers such as the Kindle from Amazon.com, the Sony Reader and the Nook from Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble will sell the Que e-reader along with its already-shipping Nook device, noting they will serve two different markets, officials said.

James Brehm, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said the Que had fast responses to his touch during a two-minute session he had using it. "Compared to other touch screens, this is the best I've seen," he said, noting that he has found the Nook fairly slow in response to touches.

Brehm has been somewhat cautious about the 2010 market for e-readers with estimates frpm pther analysts ranging from 5 million to 15 million of the devices shipping this year. However, he said the long-term future for e-readers is promising. E-readers will "fill a niche" between smartphones and laptops, he said, repeating the theme Plastic Logic articulated today.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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