Interview with the enTourage eDGe team

The enTourage eDGe is an exciting device - an e-reader/netbook with a dual LCD and e-paper display running on Google's Android OS. I had the good chance to interview Asghar Mostafa, President and CEO of enTourage Systems, and Doug Atkinson, their VP of Marketing and BizDev.

eTourage Systems, based in McLean, VA, was founded in early 2008 to work on the eDGe. They say that the eDge is "an interactive dualbook that merges the functionalities of an e-reader, tablet netbook, notepad, audio and video recorder and player in one dual-screen device".



Q: First of all, the eDGe release date was set to February, now I see in your site that it's pushed back to March. Is that still on track?

DA: Pre-orders received by January 12 will start shipping at the end of this week as scheduled. New orders will begin shipping in March.

enTourage eDGe fully open photo

Q: The eDGe is the first e-reader with a dual display. Or maybe the first netbook with an e-reader display... How did you come up with this design?
AM: We saw a gap in the e-reader market for a device that could combine reading with note taking, Web surfing, email, Word/PowerPoint/Excel and music and video playing and recording, which would ultimately enhance the learning process as well. My teenaged kids confirmed it as well, saying they couldn’t do much with just a dedicated e-reader. They wanted Internet connectivity, email, Facebook, games; they’re part of a very tech-savvy generation that has high expectations for gadgets.

Q: Who is your target audience?

DA: The enTourage eDGe is ideal for a vast number of consumers. It is particularly useful for the educational market because students can download e-textbooks on the device, take notes, draw diagrams, record lectures, and leverage the Internet to pull up more information, images or view hyperlinks from e-textbooks. 

For the business person, the device is designed to make life simpler as well. For example, an executive could receive a contract via email, view it on the e-paper side of the device, sign it and send it back - all without the need to print and scan the document. Again, the device is also useful to record meetings and access email whenever needed. 

For the general consumer, the enTourage eDGe offers an e-reader with heightened functionality because it also provides access to music, videos, newspapers and magazines (in addition to e-books). It merges the functionality of other commonly-used electronics, such as Web surfing and document editing – making it an all-in-one compact solution. 

For all consumers, converting paper documents to an electronic format is becoming increasingly popular, and having a sense of security and comfort regarding these documents is critical. Supported by the enTourage Systems’ back-up, the enTourage eDGe is an ideal solution for all users who depend on digital material, so they know their documents are stowed away safely should the unit get damaged or go missing.

enTourage eDGeenTourage eDGe

Q: You claim 16-hours battery life when 'reading'. How much time will I have if I use the LCD? and if I use both displays?

DA: Using both screens simultaneously--or using the LCD screen primarily--will give users up to six hours of power.

enTourage eDGe closed (LCD showing) photo
Q: Can you describe some usage scenarios where I'll benefit from two displays at once?

DA: The interactivity between the E-Ink and LCD screens is what makes the enTourage eDGe really special; it allows users to engage more material than other devices. Users can do a number of unique things on the device:

 

  • Drag the stylus across grayscale images on the E-Ink screen to view them in color on the LCD screen
  • Attach Web pages, notes and video on the WiFi-enabled LCD screen to passages in an e-book
  • Export PDF notes or revised documents (such as contracts that are marked up on the E-Ink side) so that they can be emailed to colleagues
  • Open hyperlinks or view video embedded in an e-textbook on the netbook side

These features are useful, for example, so a student in class can record a lecture on his enTourage eDGe, read along with information in the e-textbook on the e-reader screen and search the web for more information on the topic, attaching any relevant pages to passages in the e-textbook. The enTourage eDGe can perform many functions at once with the dual screens, making it easy to digest and interact with many channels.

Q: You have your own e-book store, with several partnerships (Google, Oxford Press, Ingram Digital and LibreDigital). Isn't having your own store a distraction? Why not partner with a large e-book seller like B&N?

DA: Having our own e-bookstore allows us to offer books and documents based on our customer demand. We are always listening to consumer feedback, and with our own e-bookstore we are able to quickly meet their need for new or different options.

Q: The eDge has an E-Ink display for the e-reader side. Are you considering different e-paper technologies for future versions?

DA: The enTourage eDGe uses an E-Ink display for the e-reader screen. With that said, we stay abreast of new technologies and will weigh any new options for the benefit of enTourage eDGe users.

enTourage eDGe closed (e-paper showing) photo
Q: The e-reader market is still in its infancy, but already there are leaders: Amazon, Sony and possibly the new Apple iPad. Will there be room for smaller players like enTourage?

DA: There are many e-readers on the market but any company that can bring a product to market that is truly unique and offers superior value will be able to carve a space out for itself. enTourage Systems is building upon existing technology and offering more value in one device. It’s much more than an e-reader, which sets it apart from competing devices.

Compared to e-readers like the Kindle and Sony e-readers, the enTourage eDGe has the added benefit of an LCD touchscreen, on which users can browse the Web, open Microsoft documents and play video.

Compared to other netbooks and tablets such as the Apple iPad, the enTourage eDGe offers a comfortable reading experience with a larger E-Ink screen that is easy on the eyes and running alone, stays powered for more than 16 hours. The device also has annotation abilities, making it simple to mark-up documents and books with the stylus to save notes or export to colleagues.

 

Q: Do you have plans for a next-generation device?
DA: The enTourage eDGe will continue to evolve as a product, getting potentially lighter and smaller and integrated with more functionality. Our ears are open to customer feedback, and we’ll be sure to update the product in accordance with their wants and needs.

Q: What do you think are the main challenges in the e-reader market?
DA: The main challenge in the e-reader market is that there are many products out there that appeal to a wide variety of consumers, but many of the e-readers don’t target a specific audience. enTourage Systems is meeting the needs of specific consumer groups, such as students and business people.

Q: How do you envision the market in 3-5 years? What role will enTourage play?
DA: Consumer electronics are becoming increasingly more compact and powerful. The enTourage eDGe will aid in this charge, as it’s a robust tool that is easy to take on-the-go, no matter the location. Consumers are looking for devices that do more for less, so by merging the functionalities of several popular products into one cost-effective solution – we’re meeting a great, and growing, market demand. 

Additionally, the e-reader market is one of few that have seen continued and successful growth in the past year. Forrester Research predicted the sale of e-reader units to reach 3 million by the end of 2009, which is up from their previous estimate of 2 million. Also, Forrester expects sales to double in 2010.

To keep up with this demand, companies are debuting and upgrading e-readers with greater features to make the devices more appealing and competitive. The enTourage eDGe will do just that, but encompasses features and applications well beyond the capabilities of e-readers on the market.

Q: What's the deal with the capital letters? Why enTourage eDGe?
DA: The capital “DG” in eDGe stands for digital generation – our generation that continues to thrive on technology.

Thanks Doug and Asghar for this great interview. I wish both of you, and enTourage the best of luck! 

Adding notes

Re: "Export PDF notes or revised documents (such as contracts
that are marked up on the E-Ink side) so that they can be
emailed to colleagues"

Are the items emailed to colleages actually copies of the original PDF with your hand-written notes attached just as they appear on your own screen? Or does the software revise the original PDF?

Or, is there an auxiliary or associated file that goes with it.

Is this capability confined to PDFs? (you mention "or revised documents").

Would the receiving party be able to read it without any added utility?

(Editors: could you pass on these questions to Entourage Edge folks? Thanks.)

- Andrys

Re: Adding Notes

Hi Andrys,

When a colleague receives an annotated PDF, the file can be opened just like any other PDF. The annotations will be present in the saved PDF and will require no additional software besides a standard PDF reader, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

-enTourage Systems

re: Adding Notes question and reply

To eS,
Thanks for your reply to my question. Sounds very good.

- Andrys

How good is the PDF reader?

Exciting device!
Can you scroll PDF documents by line or just turn entire pages?
Can you copy any PDF from your computer to the enTourage eDGe?


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