Kno, Other Dual Screen Tablets Are Coming -- but No One Cares Post-iPad

Last Updated Sep 9, 2010 4:09 PM EDT

The Kno dual-screen tablet is officially hitting stores this year, but the ambitious device is going to have a hard time carving out a niche in a post-iPad world. The Kno's student body target audience, massive 14-inch screens and questionable price show how nearly any dual-screen tablet has more to prove -- and why Microsoft (MSFT) may have been wise to hold off on its own Courier twin-screen tablet.

The vision behind Kno is interesting. An ambitious project backed by Andreessen Horowitz and other Silicon Valley heavy hitting venture capitalist firms, the Kno tablet is a Trojan horse for changing college books. The goal is to create "an ecosystem" where students can purchase digital books and other class material, a la Apple (APPL) iTunes.

The rub here is that Amazon (AMZN) has been there, done that and, thus far, failed with the Kindle DX. Already a home of digital textbooks, Amazon pushed the Kindle into colleges last Spring and got some of the following feedback:

At the University of Virginia, as many as 80 percent of MBA students who participated in Amazon's pilot program said they would not recommend the Kindle DX as a classroom study aid (though more than 90 percent liked it for pleasure reading).

At Princeton University and Portland-based Reed College, a small liberal-arts institution, students praised the Kindle for its long battery life, paper savings and portability. They then complained they couldn't scribble notes in the margins, easily highlight passages or fully appreciate color charts and graphics.


Compared to the 10-inch screen Kindle DX, the dual 14.1-inch screen Know will know doubt make it easier to have margin notes and view graphics. However, the hulking size also eliminates two of the three positives college students mentioned: long battery life and portability. The full-color Kno will definitely not last as long as the Kindle's approximately monthly charge, and will obviously weight more than the DX's 10 ounces.

Price is also an issue, especially if the target is college students. Kno CEO Osman Rashid (founder of digital textbook company Chegg, hence the Kno device) promises the device will be less than $1,000, which is comforting, but not enough to woo young people from competing technology. The $499 iPad is the elephant in the living room here and Apple has already made headway penetrating colleges through iTunes University and well-planned outreach programs, not to mention that students arriving on campus this month may already have one. Worse, the Kindle, Barnes & Noble nook and Sony (SNE) Reader just finished an ugly price war that has all of them available for about $100. Students are more willing to look past device limitations if it's only costing them a Benjamin Franklin.

Both unusual and expensive, dual tablets are already a tough sell, but the e-reader wars and the game-changing iPad make pushing something like the Kno an uphill battle. At least with the Courier, Microsoft had the guts to acknowledge the 2010 battleground had changed.

Photo courtesy of Kno
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