Barnes and Noble had hoped to put all this unpleasant legal wrangling behind them, but their effort to have the case brought by Spring Design dismissed has been rejected. The judge said in his ruling that there was insufficient information to assure Barnes and Noble did not violate California law. Spring Design will be allowed to pursue their claim against the bookseller turned ebook seller for misappropriating trade secrets and breach of contract.
Spring design, maker of the Alex e-reader, claims to have shared its e-reader design with Barnes and Noble in hopes the retailer would enter a partnership to sell ebooks. Instead, Barnes and Noble made and launched the Nook with a similar two screen design. Spring Design sued shortly thereafter. The Ales did eventually launch in April of 2010 with a $299 price tag. The high price and lack of a strong content tie in has made for a tough sell. Do you think Barnes and Noble borrowed a little too heavily from the Alex?
In an ebook reader market that’s rapidly approaching the saturation point, a device needs to have a certain set of features to stand out from the crowd. The Alex eReader, a new ebook reader from Spring Design, has enough of them to make it an intriguing new product, and a fun one to try out, but not enough of them to warrant a buy recommendation.
First, the design of the Alex eReader is second to none. While it shares a general architecture with the Nook (an e-ink screen up top and a smaller, Android-powered, full-color touch screen below), the Alex is both better looking and more functional. At approximately 4.5x9 inches, it’s longer than the Nook, but feels surprisingly sturdy, and is easy to balance while you read. The longer design leaves room for a larger color display down below, although the e-ink display is somewhat smaller than the Kindle’s. Beauty is subjective, of course, but it’s hard to argue that the Alex eReader isn’t a fine-looking piece of hardware.
The Nook is off to a rough start. Spring Design has sued Barnes & Noble over what it alleges are the misappropriation of trade secrets and the violation of a non-disclosure agreement. Spring Design is claiming that pirated design features from its dual-screen Alex eReader, incorporating them in to Barnes & Noble’s Nook eReader.
The point of contention for Spring Design is something it calls the Duet Navigator. This design feature consists of a gray-scale upper screen for reading text, and a lower color screen for navigation. Interestingly, the Nook possesses the same basic design feature. Spring Design says it started filing patents on the Alex back in 2006. (The patent on the Duet Navigator is still pending.) Barnes & Noble apparently co-opted the ideas while working with Spring Design earlier this year.
Darren Murph, over at Engadget, made the early call on this: “Judging by the hastily prepared web site coincidentally appearing on the eve of the B&N device launch, and the domain’s registrar, Albert Teng, who has numerous patent applications (not patents granted) covering ‘electronic devices having complementary dual-displays,’ we’d say this announcement is quite possibly a desperate attempt to lay claim on intellectual property rights instead of a real product with real manufacturers and real content partners.”
There’s good news and bad news for eBook fans. First up: new eBook readers using Marvell’s ARMADA 166E chip could see triple the frame rate of first generation devices. The bad news: the faster frame rate of 3 fps won’t exactly have you playing Doom just yet but low frame rate animation will possible.
Marvell doesn’t mind though. The company’s new chip isn’t meant to just increase performance, it’ll also offer a cost reduction and power reduction by shrinking what is now a multi-chip board controller board down to a single chip. Marvell showed off several OEM designs including Spring Design’s upcoming dual-screen Alex.
This dual-screen eBook puts Kindle's web-browsing features to shame.
Spring Design unveiled an Android power eReader device dubbed “Alex,” today. The new eReader is powered by Google’s Android OS, features dual screens (!), SD card reader and a Wifi/3G network connection.
There is no question the most unique feature of “Alex” is its multiple screens. It features a 6 inch monochrome display optimized for reading text. However, it also features a color 3.5 inch display allowing the user to simultaneously browse other content. The two screens have been optimized to work together.
"Users can capture and cache web content from their online experience on the LCD screen, and toggle to view it on the EPD screen without taxing the battery life," explained Spring Design CEO Dr. Priscilla Lu. "Browser features such as bookmarking, history, and security settings are built in, and the device with full Android browsing capability, is mobile enabled with smart phones capabilities."
Spring Design is currently shopping for content providers and hopes to be shipping the device before the end of 2009.