Another launch date slips; Que now coming in summer

Plastic Logic says that Que, its large-format, slightly flexible e-reader is going to be shipping some time this summer rather than in mid-April. Now this delay isn't quite as entertaining as seeing JooJoo and Alex slip, (to the best of my knowledge, Plastic Logic isn't involved in any gossip-heavy lawsuits) but it still feels significant. After all, we first heard about the device last spring and then were led to believe it was going to be Barnes & Noble's in-house e-reader, a position it eventually gave up to the Nook. Que will still support B&N's e-book store but clearly it isn't the 'lead platform' for it.

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What's more troubling is that Plastic Logic has stopped taking pre-orders of both the $649 4GB model and the $799 8GB, 3G model. The site just says "Pre-orders are sold out. Notify me when QUE is available." without anything in the way of additional information. How do you sell out of pre-orders? Either the demand is so high that Plastic Logic doesn't think it can meet it, or something has gone amiss. A quick perusal of the site will tell you that Que is aimed at businesses; maybe Plastic Logic is finding it's more lucrative to talk directly to verticals like healthcare and legal rather than selling to consumers? That's total speculation on my part. Meanwhile, the iPad pre-orders are rolling in and Apple is ready to establish its beachhead in the land of folks who read e-books. Now Que is an e-reader, not a tablet, but the arrival of the iPad seems to have swept that distinction away. Everyone seems to think the iPad will be the e-reader to beat even though it has a conventional backlit LED screen. Weren't we trying to get away from those due to eye strain? Maybe the Reality Distortion Field solves the eye-strain issue? In any event, VentureBeat reported a figure of 120,000 iPads pre-ordered on Friday. This was an estimate based on timestamps and serial numbers, so take it with a grain of salt, but if it's even close to accurate the iPad is off to a good start. And apparently those same verticals that the Que ought to appeal to are also a good, and perhaps better, fit for the iPad. Any way you look at it, this delay is bad news for Plastic Logic and the Que.

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