Skiff LLC announced today that the company will formally unveil its new Skiff Reader at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week to an invitation only crowd that apparently does not include your humble blogger. The Skiff event will be presented by Sprint, who signed a multi-year agreement to provide 3G connectivity for the new reader.
The new Skiff Reader is an 11.5" LG Display touchscreen with a resolution of 1200 x 1600 pixels and weigh just over one pound (17 - 9/16 oz). The reader will have WiFi, in addition to 3G, and comes with a built in speaker, USB port, and 4 gigs of memory with 3 additional gigs available for content. (More pictures below.)
Its metal foil display is surely its most unusual feature, as is its width -- only 6.8 mm.
The press release points to the market Skiff hopes to tap:
A full touchscreen enables users to intuitively navigate and engage with the newspapers, magazines, books and other digital content they purchase through the Skiff Store, as well as personal and work documents. The device weighs just over one pound and lasts over a week of average use between charges.“We have witnessed a strong demand for e-readers in recent years and now Sprint is showing its commitment to Skiff by making this new device available on the 3G network and for sale in Sprint retail stores,” said Dan Dooley, president wholesale solutions, Sprint.
Although the press release and technical specifications fail to mention it, the display appears to be a monochromatic screen like the Kindle. If so, then the Skiff Reader would be competing against Amazon and Sony, who have introduced dedicated readers. This would be a separate category apart from tablets, which promise multimedia capability, full color displays, and other computer-like applications such as video, e-mail and other applications. But the speaker and other features, including the 4 gigs of memory, does make one wonder what other capabilities beyond reading the latest edition of the Chronicle or the next Kathy Reichs novel this reader can handle.
The Skiff will be available at Sprint stores and the press releases states that "availability, pricing, additional distribution channels and other details will be disclosed at a later date."
Like the iPhone, the Skiff Reader will most likely be a subsidized product -- allowing Sprint to sell the reader for a discounted price, but forcing the consumer to sign a data contract for 3G usage.
Skiff now lists the Hearst Corporation, LG Display, Marvell Technology Group and Sprint as its partners. Marvell is a semiconductor company involved in storage, communications and graphics. Gilbert Fuchsberg is the company's CEO. Prior to Skiff Fuchsberg was a principal at JPMorgan Partners, and much earlier was Vice President, New Media & Technology for Interpublic.
Of interest to the publishing community, Clifford Guren is listed as Vice President of Content Acquisition. He worked previously as Group Product manager for Microsoft Reader, and as Senior Director of Publisher Evangelism for Microsoft’s Live Search Academic and Live Search Books projects. He also worked at Quebecor.
Kenneth A. Bronfin, President of Hearst’s Interactive Media Group, is Skiff's Board Chairman.
Full disclosure: I am a former Hearst employee -- but I believe Coolidge was President at the time.
I am particularly interested in learning more about the Skiff Store:
The Skiff Reader will feature the Skiff service and digital store, allowing consumers to wirelessly purchase and access a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, books, blogs and other content from multiple publishers.Will this store be an "open" store? Or is Skiff setting themselves up to compete with Amazon in the downloadable media area?
This isn't a prosaic detail: the Apple iTunes store, while not completely open, is not a totally impenetrable outlet. Many bands have independently offered their music there, almost anyone can announce their podcasts through iTunes, and the app store has created literally hundreds of new software developers.
We'll see how much the Skiff executives get social media, let alone New Media, when they begin announcing their new content partners, and let the rest of the industry know what the barriers to entry are.