Truly revolutionary mashups

The Amazon Kindle, The Sony E-Reader and the iREX iliad all use Linux operating systems.

I'm sure you knew that.

The IREX Iliad makes its code fully available to Open Source developers, even if IREX is a little slow off the mark with their SDKs. The other two only release the bits of code that they are duty bound to do so under the GPL.

In any case, these e-Readers are all wonderful examples of techno-mashups that shamelessly leverage Open Source software, off-the-shelf proprietary bits and bobs plus a bit of custom programming.

You will find all sorts of stuff in a 3G/wifi enabled touch screen e-reader. A custom boot loader, Wacom touch technology, patented e-INK displays, MP3 players, text-to-speech readers, even a buried GPS module (one lurks in the Kindle 2)!

Thanks to the elegant nematic twist of the liquid crystal display they sip electricity - two weeks between recharges without wireless, one week with wireless on. Sixteen grey scale is already possible and e-INK is looking at full colour LCD displays.

The new Kindle DX, the Sony Daily, the IREX DR800 SG are impressive second-generation iterations and are exemplars of how Open Standards and Open Sources software can be brought together with a range of proprietary software and patented hardware.

The 3G wireless technology that they share in common is similar to cell phone IMS architecture and their (proprietary) protocols are P2P enabled.


Readers would not be of much use without something to read on them. Inevitably there are proprietary formats but these are looking sillier in a market that is so different and new that putting folk off with betamax/VHS or blueray wars is counterproductive.

Consequently, with the help of Google's release of millions of free books, the EPUB format has emerged and is rapidly becoming the de facto format.

EPUB is easy, XML and XHTML makes converting documents to a standard format very straightforward. All readers can handle that other (now open) standard Adobe's PDF but PDF is complicated and importantly not flowable. Here is what IBM say about EPUB on their web site:

EPUB is the XML format for reflowable digital books and publications standardized by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), a trade and standards association for the digital publishing industry.

What this means is that EPUB will render correctly on all sorts of screen sizes and resolutions and PDF wont. That includes readers, computers and smartphones.

We have above are the ingredients for a revolution, quite what kind of revolution it will be is worth exploring.

Below is a taste of what is to come.

2015 and all that

In the very near future we will mostly get our (hitherto) printed material, wirelessly delivered anywhere in the world, directly to our reader. The copyright wars will be nearing a close and the readers will be able to share material on a P2P basis away from the prying eyes of the state.

This means on the readers will be not just reading books, but daily newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, text books, student-worksheets, bulletins from the company, blogs, maps advertising (inevitably) and even personal 'letters'. Storage will not be a problem.

You will get on the train and the 'paper' will appear as if by magic, get to college, if you are a student, and the day's work will appear or if you are arriving at megacorp, as you step through the doors your bulletins and correspondence will appear.

Sitting on the train you will be able to 'write' ( P2P) to a friend or a colleague (e-mail has long since been rendered useless by spam and government surveillance) either in longhand or keyed in.

2015 will be a bit like that aberration the virus ridden spam delivery device aka the PC had never happened and what a relief that will be.

We will have web browsers and e-readers and that's all.

6,000 years of reading and writing, ink on parchment makes a comeback (sort of).

Go and buy one now! It's ok, it's Linux, Open Standards compliant and very green.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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