You may have seen the commercials where a Kindle user is happily reading from her device by the pool while another tablet user is unhappily squinting at her own device. Sony is working to solve that viewing problem -- and a few others -- for industrial tablet users with its just-released Digital Paper e-ink tablet. Aimed at business pros, the new device is expected to hit store shelves in May, with a hefty $1,100 price tag.
Sony is pressing a number of productivity buttons with Digital Paper, promising that professionals who are overwhelmed with paper can now read, annotate and share documents electronically with its new tablet. With a 13.3-inch display, Digital Paper offers full-screen views of letter-size documents in the PDF format, a convenience for power users who hate zooming and scrolling to read entire pages.
Bob Nell, director of Digital Paper Solutions for Sony Electronics, called the new mobile device a replacement for the mountains of paper that clutter offices everywhere. Nell said it’s “optimized for reading and annotating contracts, white papers, scholarly articles and legislation.” He’s convinced that the notepad feature will have universal appeal and make document management more mobile.
Unlike a traditional tablet, Digital Paper offers an experience that’s much closer visually to traditional printed documents or full-size notepads. But like a traditional tablet, the device offers a touch panel that lets users maneuver a menu. And like a Kindle, it lets readers turn pages by touching the screen.
Sony is also pushing green and cost-saving benefits of Digital Paper. For example, the company says its device will reduce or eliminate printing, copying, sharing, transporting and discarding corporate documentation, teaching materials, and reports. That could be a significant benefit, given an InfoTends report that cites local, state and federal offices used a yearly volume of 122 billion sheets of paper, an amount equal to roughly 400 sheets for every person in the United States, as recently as 2011.
Sony expects Digital Paper to find an audience with users in industries spanning law, higher education, governmental agencies and corporations. The device includes a stylus that lets users write directly on the device, highlight and erase text and, of course, sign documents electronically.
"Sony has created a superlative tool for attorneys," said Ray Zwiefelhofer, president of World Software Corp. "It's incredibly thin and lightweight, super comfortable for taking handwritten notes and the viewing of documents comes real close to the paper counterpart.”
As Zwiefelhofer sees it, Digital Paper has the potential to replace attorneys' notepads, binders and boxes of files by allowing them to save meeting notes directly into the client matter folder in Worldox. He said the device will make it possible for attorneys and other legal professionals to “efficiently organize and reference” materials for court hearings, testimonies, client and board meetings -- in or out of the office.
Twice the Cost of an iPad
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, to get his take on the new device. He put the new launch into context, reminding us that Sony just pulled the plug on its eReader and is selling its unsuccessful PC business. With that kind of track record, is Sony doomed to fail with it latest innovation?
“This reader only integrates with one document management solution, doesn't use DocuSign, costs twice as much as an iPad, and won't do apps well,” Enderle said. “On the plus side it is larger, lighter, works better outside, and has much longer battery life suggesting it has the basis for a good idea, just poorly executed -- or traditional Sony.”