The e-reader wars have yet another newcomer, and its name is Alex -- a new-e-reader from Spring Design that runs on Google's Android operating system. Launched Monday, Alex enters the crowded field of e-readers as the first officially announced device to offer the Android platform, though Spring Design did not disclose pricing or availability.
With the Android aspect, Spring Design, an e-reading technology specialist based in Fremont, Calif., is stealing a bit of thunder from Barnes & Noble, which is expected to announce its first branded e-reader -- rumored to also be running on the Android platform -- in a news conference Tuesday.
Despite a few blogosphere rumors that the Spring Design e-reader and the Barnes & Noble e-reader are actually one and the same, Spring Design's release indicates Alex is a different e-reader entirely.
According to Spring Design, the Alex e-reader offers full browser capabilities over Wi-Fi, 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM mobile networks. The Alex e-reader also sports Spring Design's patented dual-screen: a 6-inch electronic paper display on one side and a 3.5-inch color LCD screen for media content. Users can move content accessed through Spring Design's Alex Web browser between the two screens.
Among other features, Alex also offers the ability for users to insert images and other content -- such as video -- into the text itself. Alex makes use of Spring Design's Link Notes, a multimedia text link tool, and its color LCD screen uses Google Android to access the Web and customize content as a user would on other Android-powered mobile devices.
Spring Design said in a press release it would target Alex toward professional, educational and entertainment markets.
"This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyperlinked to the text. We are bringing life to books with audio, video and annotations," said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design, in a statement. "This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the Web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience."
Spring Design did not confirm pricing. It said that the company was "enlisting major content partners and plans to release the Alex device for selected strategic partners by the end of this year."
The Alex e-reader will need all the firepower it can get to compete in the rapidly crowding e-reader marketplace. In addition to established titans like Amazon Kindle and the recently refreshed Sony Reader line, it also has newcomers like Plastic Logic -- which previewed its forthcoming QUE reader Monday -- and Google's Google Editions digital book cloud service to contend with.