ISTE 2010: Entourage Edge

The Buzz Blog test drives the Entourage Edge at ISTE 2010.

With over 500 product vendors here at ISTE 2010, it's impossible to see everything in three days, so, I'm basically pretending I'm a human magnet; I'll only stop by a vendor's booth if their product somehow, mysteriously pulls me in. Suddenly, at about 15 minutes into my exhibit hall wonderings, it happened. I drifted towards a product that I'd never seen before.

Launched at CES in January, 2010, Entourage Edge is a dual-display, 9.7-inch e-ink and 10-inch LCD hybrid with built-in WiFi. It's exactly what you'd get if you crossed an e-reader with a tablet PC.  Open flat on a table, the tablet and the e-reader look like two separate devices, sitting side by side. It's only when you peer closer that you notice there's a hinge holding the two together, allowing it to fold 360 degrees in either direction. VP of Marketing and Business Development, Doug Atkinson, explained that the Entourage Edge was created with students in mind-- in an effort to "shrink the backpack into a multi-functional, portable device that enhances the learning experience." 

The Operating System (OS) is Embedded Linux with Google Android, which is compelling for schools that want to stay away from the closed systems of Windows or Mac, yet take advantage of the expanding popularity of Google Android. It will be interesting to see if developers see enough potential in this new device to develop specific apps for it. The e-ink display lets you read EPUB and PDF files which is great if you're in a particularly document-rich industry. You can even take notes and manipulate text with the included stylus. Holding that stylus in my hand brought me down memory lane, back to my first Palm handheld. I reflected for about 3.5 seconds, then thanked Steve for my iPhone.

Doug demonstrated the device's video playback feature by launching YouTube. The LCD touchscreen is resistive (like the Palm handheld) vs. capacitive, (like the iPod) by tapping the familiar YouTube button. The video played back as you'd expect. There's even two mics: one for recording lecture, and a second for noise cancellation.

Although average for a mid-size laptop, it's quite heavy as an e-book reader. You can't detatch one from the other (which I think would make for a compelling feature). Weighing in at 3.2 pounds, it's definitely not going to be your "curl up by the fire with a good book" device; however, in a classroom, where students are seated at a desk, the weight becomes less of an issue. Holding it as an e-reader, it felt strange as my fingers accidentally pressed buttons on the tablet side; I kept thinking I'd inadvertently turn the thing off or change a setting.

Is it for you? If you gravitate towards hybrid devices, you'd likely answer yes; however, if you prefer devices that excel at only one thing, you'd probably choose an e-reader and a tablet PC. Consider the spork: It's a great hybrid utensil, but if you want a fork, nothing works quite like a fork. Same with a spoon; On the other hand, if you could only have one utensil, the spork does double duty.

Follow Buzz on Twitter: @buzzgarwood

Jun 29 2010

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