December 21, 2014

Pouring Water on the B&N eReader Rumor?

IREX_DR800_03All the excitement around today’s news of a Barnes & Noble eReader running Android may end up being for naught.

According to IREX Technologies, their new DR800SG series eReader is going to be the device that Barnes & Noble uses for their Kindle-killer.  This soon-to-be released unit packs an 8.1-inch, touch-screen and multi-mode 3G capabilities powered by Verizon Wireless. 

The Barnes & Noble eBook strategy is very much aligned with IREX’s approach to the market. IREX’s open platform, powered by Barnes & Noble’s comprehensive eBookstore, is an appealing proposition for people who love to read. Barnes & Noble is the world’s largest bookseller, so we understand how to create a great shopping experience for people looking for simple and convenient access to their favorite subjects, authors and material. – William J. Lynch, president of BN.com

Unfortunately, the open platform used for the device doesn’t appear to be Android.  As pointed out by Jaap A. Haitsma, the eReader uses GNOME as the OS environment.

You can write programs for these devices by installing the SDK. I’ve tried it a while ago and it works pretty nicely. I only find it a pity that IREX doesn’t advertise this at all at their main website.

We did some digging around the IREX site for Android only to come up completely empty-handed.  This is not to say definitively that this is the same device the WSJ is talking about.  In fact, that’s where it gets muddy.  The Journal says that the screen size is 6 inches and that the carrier will be AT&T.  Awfully conflicting stuff if it’s the same product.

IREX_DR800_04

Our own Jose Salviati did a bit of sleuthing today and here’s what he found out

Excited about the possibility of an Android based eReader from Barnes and Noble I reached out to the bookstore giant from New York.  Why not go to the source, right?  Unfortunately, the response from B&N was very politically-correct; no admissions, no denials.

“Barnes & Noble has made no announcement about a device.” Mary Ellen Keating Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs for Barnes and Noble told me.  “Barnes & Noble believes that readers should have access to the books in their digital library from any device, anywhere, at anytime.” What better platform for the “anywhere, anytime” device than Android, right Mary Ellen? <Insert silence here>.

With Kindle sales projected to be 1 billion in 2010 it makes sense that Barnes and Noble is at least looking at devices to get a piece of the eReader pie.  Android as the platform of choice for this mystery device also makes sense.  For now though the official word is mum.  More to come, I’m sure.

The plot thickens!

The truth is out there, somewhere!  Mary Ellen Keating mentioned the IREX device to me when we communicated earlier.  Now, it’s always dangerous to read intent into an email but her reply only listed the IREX device along side others they intent to support.  Keating did not single it out as the one they would put their name on.

We are supporting many devices i.e. Plastic Logic’s forthcoming device, Irex’s new device, iphone and ipod touch, blackberry, and PCs.

This is where we throw it back to you… do you think these are the same devices?  Is Android going to be part of the picture?

Thanks for the tip Carl!


Image source: NatickNavigator



  • johnkzin

    Uh…. GNOME isn't an OS. It's an environment that runs on top of an OS (Linux).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/droidin droidin

      That's very true

  • johnkzin

    If the DR800SG is like the DR1000SW, but with 3G and an 8″ display … that’d be interesting.

    I’d be more interested in something like a DR1000SW, if it’s also Linux and GNOME based (I’d rather have a 10″ display than an 8″ display). A few key apps (say, Firefox), support for an external keyboard (taking notes), an on-screen keyboard, and maybe a terminal/ssh program to use in emergencies (_maybe_ a VNC viewer — yes, I know the quality and speed would be abysmal, it would be for emergencies) … would be a great mid-range tablet device for me. E-book reader, RSS reader, Gmail reader, and in a pinch “emergency remote server admin” device (a need I have for my mid-range device). That would completely replace my netbook.

    Oh, and, maybe pidgin (or a comparable multi-protocol multi-account IM client).

    If the DR1000SW isn’t linux/gnome based with an open SDK … then I suppose I could go with the DR800SG, if I could get one that has wifi-only instead of 3G (or if the 3G plan is optional). I would only want 3G built in if I had a choice of carriers. If I’m forced to use a particular carrier, then I’d want to go “wifi only” and get a mifi or cradlepoint, instead.

    It would also be interesting if Canonical’s work to port Dalvik (android runtime) to Ubuntu could be applied here. Even though it might not run Android, you might still be able to run Android apps on it. That’d be quite interesting.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/c0z c0z

    To compete with Borders stores, I believe that Barnes & Noble will carry multiple devices. Whether or not one of these devices will include Android is probably more up to the manufacturers than the Barnes & Noble. I'm not sure if any of you have used the app for Blackberry or iPhone, but it isn't too complex and I can't see any large issues creating the same offering for an Android platform.