In a announcement yesterday, Plastic Logic officially killed the much-and-long-hyped QUE ProReader. In the release, Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta said,”We recognize the market has dramatically changed, and with the product delays we have experienced, it no longer make sense for us to move forward with our first generation electronic reading product.” Those changes include not only the launch of the iPad, but, perhaps
most importantly to a company that was about to launch a $700 dedicated e-reader, the recent price wars between Amazon, Sony, and other e-reader manufacturers that have effectively brought the price of e-readers down to a little over 100 bucks. But the story of the QUE is full of lessons about the rapidly changer e-book market, and about the pace at which the technology behind information-consumption is moving.
The QUE was an imaginary product–while Plastic Logic has been showing off prototypes for years and announced it at CES 2010, it lived almost entirely in the hazy world of hype. Amazon has the highest share of the e-reader market not because it built the best e-reader but because it got the Kindle to market first: Amazon taught readers how to use e-books with its e-reader and its Kindle store.
Apple will end up winning at tablets largely because it got the iPad out first–as with the iPhone, all other tablets will have to be copycats, or will seem to be. Of course the market bypassed the QUE, because Plastic Logic kept its product out of the market. Amazon essentially released an inferior product (the Kindle 1), and updated it as soon as it could. But it got a heck of a head start.
Of course, Plastic Logic wasn’t quite trying to compete with Amazon–it said the QUE was a “Pro” reader, targeted at business clients who’d want to read various kinds of self-generated documents. Plus Plastic Logic isn’t a book hardware company, it’s a plastic electronics company–the e-reader was just a way of showing off that technology.
Now the company says it “plans to shift its focus to bring to market a second-generation ProReader plastic electronics-based product.” What could the company do differently to make that product successful? Maybe plastic electronics are really, really awesome–tons lighter, glow-in-the-dark, who knows?–in which case that might be a sellingpoint. Otherwise, the QUE 2 better either be a mind-blowing tablet computer, or a dirt cheap e-ink e-reader.