Turning Content Into Gold
The Microsoft Reader software comes pre-installed on a Microsoft Pocket PC. Reader offers special functions, such as highlighting, bookmarks, notes, drawings, search, a built-in dictionary, large print and audio books. The software uses new digital rights management (DRM) technology from McLean, Va.-based ContentGuard, a feature of great interest to publishers because it promises the possibility of secure delivery of e-books (and other content) to consumers via the Web. Microsoft is expected to integrate Reader with other major software products soon, allowing e-books to re-flow across a range of screen shapes and sizes. The Pocket PC's ClearType is special software for LCD screens that provides significantly better text readability than software used on earlier hand-held devices.
Pocket PC's specifications
Size: 3-by-5 inches
Weight: 6 to 9 ounces
Memory: 16 to 32 MB
Processor: 32 bit, 131 to 206 MHz
Screen: 320 x 240, 16-bit active matrix display with 4,096 to 65,000 colors
While the specifications above show that the Pocket PC packs more powerful hardware than dedicated e-book readers, current prices run as high as $500 to $600. Retailers justify the higher cost by citing additional features such as Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer and more. However, at this writing, it was unclear if the performance of these features will meet the demands of consumers.
For example, while the Pocket PC boasts a color screen and ClearType software to improve the appearance of text, the display is still only one quarter of the area of the smallest desktop units.
Earlier e-book efforts
This summer's release of the Pocket PC with Microsoft Reader is of special interest to publishers because it tries to address key problems encountered in earlier efforts to bring e-books into mainstream markets. To cite just a few examples
* Some readers found earlier devices less than ideal for pleasure reading, due to their small and colorless LCD screens. The Pocket PC, on the other hand, offers a color screen. While still small, it uses ClearType software to enhance text readability. Early response from users suggests that ClearType provides a meaningful improvement in the appearance of type, in spite of the screen's modest size, especially when sharp black text is displayed on a white background.