Saturday, February 07, 2009

Kindle Leak Rework

So the leaks of the new Kindle, to be announced this Monday, have of course happened. I am not sure of the strategy behind these leaks -- yes, I believe 'leaks' are often intentional as part of a media strategy, like how a recording of Christian Bale made at least 4 months ago got leaked just as publicity for the movie needs to ramp up up and would like for the words 'Christian Bale' and 'Terminator' to be on everyone's lips. So, we have a weekend of digesting 'leaked' designs before the announcement. Designs that look like what we saw last year in progress, by the way.

Product shot of new Kindle
Marketing shot of new Kindle

I get an IM from my friend Mike M. Mike thinks he is a network troubleshooting tech flunky in a dead-end harrowing job, with a part-time job at the Apple store. He is not, he is actually a genius in getting to the heart of design issues of personal technology, both because of his lack of preconceptions and because his whole work life is about fixing it when it breaks and finding the right solution, either for the global network he is on or the people walking into the store in despair.

Mike: what say ye, design maven?
FJ!!: too much bezel. looks like a hospital

I am a terrible typist, so I don't capitalize in IM.

Mike: [hates keyboard but] it wins on thin. There's just so much fussy on the front still.

And here is where he sums up the problem with the look of this device one sentence, nailing why the iRex look so much better (bolding mine):

Mike: Books don't have shit scattered around the edge of the page.

And after a few minutes:
Mike: There, done.

Mike M. redesigns the Kindle

Mike: If the entire point of this exercise is to find a use for e-ink after a decade of SUCK, then let the e-ink be paper. Have that kindle experience on top and get the [effing] business done on the bottom with a touchscreen like grown folks do. When you're reading, it turns off. Then you don't have to fickity [eff] with keys or that stupid D pad. Nobody is going to enjoy typing on that object as it is with that keyboard, so you might as well go virtual.

My first reaction was that he had now made it twice as expensive to make, but then again, if Nintendo can sell two screens and touch and logic for under $150, can a simple touch screen instead of a mechanical keyboard be such a problem? And it would add so many uses. I did a little sleuthing and indeed, an electronic paper reader with a secondary touch screen has been done before. Although not as charming as Mike's.

The next step is to wonder, since Amazon is also rumored to make the Kindle catalog and service available on mobile phones, is whether the next revision of electronic paper could be an accessory for these smartphones. Something you can slide a G1 or an iPhone or iPod Touch into but still access the screen for typing and gestures and selection and control. You could put in a much more expensive e-paper screen with higher resolution and contrast because you could throw all the memory and EVDO and Sprint charges out. Kindles and iPhones are currently being bought by the same people anyway. Read newsbites on the phone from the Amazon service while on the move, slide it in the comfy big e-paper reader at home. Maybe even waterproof so you can finally read in the tub. It would have to be the next generation of iPhones and G1s, though, the current hardware can't drive two separate screens this way.

As for me, I already designed my fav e-paper reader. It's a small moleskine-size fold-out with a 400 dpi color screen. Or otherwise, as I said this morning:

FJ!! I think I'll want an ereader when it makes me think Vogue would be an awesome read on it
Mike: cologne vents too

I told you he was a genius.