What needs to be fixed? First -- Android 1.5? Although about a third of Android-based devices still use version 1.5, the current version of Android is 2.1, and there are already rumors of the impending release of Android 2.2. In addition, Amazon has just announced that it will be coming out with a Kindle for Android app this summer -- which will require Android 1.6 or later.
And while I had no trouble navigating the OS, I suspect that people who are unfamiliar with Android might have a bit of a learning curve to deal with, especially because I found the manual a bit simplistic, even when explaining how to use the hardware. (I'd recommend checking out the Getting Acquainted video that's currently hidden in the Gallery app.)
In addition, the headphone jack is a nonstandard 2.5mm jack rather than the more common 3.5mm. While the Alex comes with a set of earbuds, this could be a problem for those who want to listen to music while reading with a better set of earphones. (According to a company rep, future versions of the e-reader might come with a standard jack.)
Final verdict: While it has one or two kinks that need to be worked out, the Alex is lightweight and well designed -- the kind of e-reader that I wouldn't mind carrying around with me.
At $399, it is a bit more expensive than most of its competitors -- for example, the Kindle currently costs $259, the Sony Reader Daily Edition costs $350, and the Barnes and Noble Nook costs $259. However, the Alex is both an e-reader and a mobile Web device, which could justify the extra expense.
If you're looking for an e-reader to give to an otherwise technophobic relative, I'd suggest simpler devices such as the Kindle or the Sony Reader. If, on the other hand, you want a more active e-reader that lets you read your books, listen to music, surf the Web, check your e-mail and download the occasional Android app, then the Alex is worth considering.
Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).