Intel today launched a portable $1500 e-book reader designed to help people with a broad array of vision problems including dyslexia.
The Intel Reader features a camera with built-in text-to voice software for reading out loud any text placed under the device. [About the Intel Reader
The form factor of the Intel Reader is very close to that of Mobile Internet Devices, which offer similar size screens, an Atom microprocessor, a camera, and wireless connectivity for about $500. The Intel Reader does not have any wireless connectivity yet costs 3 times more.
I attended a briefing on the device yesterday and Intel said it did a lot of research into usability. It has also partnered with organizations that are active in helping the visually-impaired such as Lighthouse International.
The product comes out of a relatively new Intel business group focused on developing healthcare related products and technologies. The goal is to aid people to deal with health and aging issues in their homes.
The potential market size for the Intel Reader is 55m people just in the US. Next week it is being launched in the UK and Intel says it will be easy to produce versions for other languages.
Is this the right strategy?
Intel is a good technology evangelist for product sectors because it makes the chips, chipsets, and flash memory that are used to create a huge number of digital devices, PCs, mobile devices, smart phones, and servers.
Yet in this case, it is developing and selling products rather than seeking to seed markets and let other companies deal with product development, marketing, and all the other aspects of selling products to consumers.
Intel has a terrible track record in producing consumer products. It has tried several times and pulled out. It used to sell MP3 players, kids toys, and it announced it would sell large screen TVs. [Commentary: Intel gears up in consumer electronics push - CNET News
- January 2001]
Intel's work in healthcare is commendable but puzzling why it wants to be in a business that isn't about making chips. It would seem it could achieve just as much by developing FDA approved reference designs and licensing its technologies to others with specialist experience in manufacturing, design, distribution, and after-sales support.
Intel is very sensitive to its investors and boosting its share price is a very important goal. This is a very important category of products. It would be tragic if it were forced to pull out because Wall Street didn't like the profit margins, which by the way are much lower than for its core business.
(I am a member of the "Intel Insiders" advisory group.)
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Please see: Intel introduces a digital book reader that reads aloud to the blind | VentureBeat