IRex: Kindle for the Enterprise?

Posted by: Douglas Macmillan on September 23, 2009

On Wednesday, iRex Technologies said its new touchscreen e-book reader will go on sale in October with a boost from retail partner Best Buy and wireless service provider Verizon. But as it draws aim at e-reader incumbents Amazon and Sony, iRex hopes to attract another, even more powerful ally: your boss.

A Dutch spin-off from electronics giant Philips, iRex already has a track record selling e-readers to enterprise customers in Europe. Members of the city council in Hardenberg, Netherlands replaced their stacks of papers with iRex readers, which wirelessly refresh the minutes and agenda of their meetings. Airlines like Morocco-based Royal Air Maroc have begun equipping pilots with digital readers containing flight charts.

IRex is entering the U.S. market with an initial focus on consumers, what North America CEO Kevin Hamilton calls “the low-hanging fruit.” But he says the opportunity “may be bigger” with businesses, where iRex’s device is likely to have more appeal than Amazon’s Kindle. Unlike the Kindle, iRex’s new 8.1-inch, $400 DR800SG can download files in most formats (“If you can print it to a printer you can run it on the device,” Hamilton says), its software runs on open-source operating system Linux, and it has security features, like the ability to remotely erase files on an entire fleet of readers.

irex.jpeg

Surprisingly, there’s already demand for e-readers in the office, according to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. “You’re going to see both top-down implementation — companies will distribute these devices to their employees — and you’ll also have bottom-up growth like the iPhone, where consumers use this in their own lives and like it so much that they want to bring it to work with them,” Epps says.

Epps has consulted several large companies who are interested in giving e-readers loaded with important documents to each member of their board, or to salespeople in the field. To these clients, security and customization are top priorities. And in both of these areas, she says iRex outmatches the Kindle.

IRex is planning a twist likely to give its e-reader another leg up in the enterprise. Early in 2010, it will let third-party developers write applications to run on the devices. Hamilton predicts many of these apps will have niche appeal to specific types of workers, like medical charts for nurses and customer relationship management for salespeople. "Amazon will never do this and I would be totally shocked if Sony did," Hamilton says. "Right now I think we kind of have that space to ourselves."

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this post.

Reader Comments

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September 24, 2009 10:27 AM

Amazon had really messed their opportunity in e-reader market. It has that opportunity when it first release the Kindle. It reacted quickly as it released the 3rd version, the DX, but that was way over due. After all the dusts settle, Amazon has just realized that it had really created the cake for somebody else to eat it. Sad story.

iRex couldn't be timing more right. It has almost all the features that the market has been looking for since the release of Kindle, the screen, the side and the overall application supports. It addresses business needs of Kindle that Kindle badly fell short. I wouldn't be supprise also that the accademic institution will use iRex, too, to supplement text books. version. Sony? ...they all just need to listen to the consumers!

Steve

September 24, 2009 12:28 PM

I disagree. Nobody listens to the consumer better than amazon. They were not building the Kindle for the business market. They still win the consumer on price and features. Plastic logic is still to come for the business market. Will Irex be able to hold on? Dont be surprised when the next version of Kindle comes out by Christmas.

Timbo

September 24, 2009 4:45 PM

I believe that Amazon loses money on the Kindle, but their CEO has stated they're in the book selling business not electronics. So I think they're probably happy to have jump-started the whole e-reader industry, and I'd expect them to open their network to all readers eventually. The hardware will soon be a cheap low margin commodity, with the real profits in data and services.
Which is why it sounds like Irex is doing it right. It's not about the device, but the networks and resources that it can access.

Tim

September 24, 2009 5:26 PM

From my perspective as an attorney and gadget freak, I would be interested in something that keeps me from printing articles and drafts(prefer to read long articles and draft documents on paper). To accomplish this, the reader would need to offer plug-ins for web browsers, word processors and PDF viewers that would allow me with in a couple of clicks to securely send documents to the reader. Additionally, I would like the ability to write, highlight and possibly leave a recorded message on documents along with the ability to e-mail revised documents. Between ink and paper, I think the above features would give the proposed gadget a decent ROI.

albert

September 24, 2009 5:37 PM

Why can't Amazon just wait for the itablet from Apple. Because any new versions will become museum pieces when they come out.

Libertynewsprint.com

September 24, 2009 5:51 PM

Timbo in the comment above has it right.

The device is just a means to and end. Its a platform. You want as many folks on board your platform as you can get. The company that offers a dirt cheap to free E-reader will probably become the leader in industry. Its akin to microsoft windows-in the beginning it was free and it became the industry standard. I'm watching to see which e-reader will get there first.

Liberty

September 24, 2009 6:03 PM

Timbo in the comment above has it right.

The device is just a means to and end. Its a platform. You want as many folks on board your platform as you can get. The company that offers a dirt cheap to free E-reader will probably become the leader in industry. Its akin to microsoft windows-in the beginning it was free and it became the industry standard. I'm watching to see which e-reader will get there first.

LibertarianLarry

September 24, 2009 6:07 PM

Re: itablet museum piece

Yeah, and only a well funded museum will be able to afford them!

basschick

September 25, 2009 9:58 AM

I'm not a fan of the Kindle. It's too restrictive - other ebook readers, including IRex's other offerings, read multiple ebook formats where Amazon Kindle only reads their own format.

If this ebook reader with its larger screen delivers as well as their other readers, I expect it will do very well for those who want wireless connectivity but don't want to be locked into the Kindle ebook format.

ReDear

September 26, 2009 8:16 AM

I have been following the e-book battle right from Go,
Amazon is keeping a tight grip on a format and content which will eventually by it's downfall.
Sony realized this weakness and embraced the Epub format, which gives them a lead.

But then comes iRex, and it's open to every single format, they are targeting the right audience, business, hospitals, schools, libraries, just anyone who loathes carrying a clipboard and a bulky file.
They are marketing it as a Universal reader, a key factor in this race.

The recent launch of iRex, with it's optimal working area and open-ness to other formats, I can't see any reason why people won't choose it.
One would have to be really dumb to pick the Kindle and Sony's reader instead of Irex.

Time will tell, I am having lots of hope from Plastic Logic as well.

Anyone with Linux OS, and option for third party application development is being very futuristic, iRex gets a head start here. Go Open Source.

Blanche

September 28, 2009 2:52 PM

What? no color screen? If it's going to work in the medical world it's gonna need color sooner or later.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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