Back in late 2007, IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson wrote about the Amazon Kindle's potential as a business tool. Business users who didn't want to lug a laptop could use it to take home documents without risking the documents being lost or damaged, she wrote, and it would work well for disseminating policies, manuals and other material companies might want to share with employees in a read-only form. It would reduce paper and printing costs, as well as business or trade magazine subscription costs.
Amazon could boost appeal to businesses, wrote Loraine, if it added software that allows companies to easily create and push their own content -- business documents, RFPs, legal documents, whatever -- to the Kindle.
That scenario certainly seems possible now that Amazon has introduced a Kindle Development Kit that allows third parties to create and sell applications for its poopular e-reader. Most publications are setting this up as an Amazon vs. Apple story, because the still-mythical tablet that Apple will reportedly introduce soon seems posed to become a Kindle killer. Wired takes a more nuanced -- and I think correct -- view, pointing out that Apple uses its iTunes to sell more hardware while Amazon is using hardware to sell more electronic content. From the Wired article:
Active content" will certainly make the Kindle more compelling, especially against other e-readers, although it will also make the Kindle more distracting. One of the nice things about an e-reader is that you can't use it to check your e-mail every five minutes. Or perhaps you can. The KDK allows the use of the wireless 3G connection. If the application uses less than 100KB per month, the bandwidth comes for free. If it uses more, there is a charge of 15 cents per MB which can (and surely will) be passed on to the customer as a monthly charge.
So maybe the Kindle could compete against the likes of Research in Motion's BlackBerry, the quintessential e-mail-on-the-go device, along with Apple's tablet. Still, while I can see the possibilities, I just can't imagine an e-reader like the Kindle becoming a more popular form factor for business use than a laptop, netbook or even a smartphone.
There's a dark horse vying for the business market. Plastic Logic earlier this month rolled out its Que proReader, an e-reader that seems far better suited to business use. (Even the name subtly lets you know it means business.) As PCWorld.com reports, it boasts a large, crisp-looking touchscreen and content deals with several business magazines like Forbes and Fast Company. Other strengths:
As PCWorld.com says:
it feels a little bit less like an electronic book, and a little more like a computing device that happens to be focused around reading.
The Que's main drawback is its price. A lower-end model with 4GB of storage for documents, Wi-Fi, USB, and Bluetooth, but no 3G connectivity, sells for $649. One that comes with 3G connectivity and doubles the amount of storage goes for $799. It's possible to get a fairly decent laptop suitable for business use for that kind of scratch.