updated 05:35 pm EDT, Thu October 8, 2009
Barnes & Noble reader would have virtual keys
(Updated with Android rumor) Barnes & Noble is developing its own high-end e-book reader to help boost its online store, a source close to its plans purportedly revealed this afternoon. Most features are unknown, but it would have a touchscreen and use an iPhone-like on-screen keyboard for searches and similar tasks. A wireless link is also seen by the Wall Street Journal as a key ingredient, though whether this would involve 3G or simply Wi-Fi isn't immediately evident.
An FCC filing from September has confirmed that a device of the sort is in the works but was wrapped in confidentiality terms that would only acknowledge Taiwan's Amtek as the company contracted to build the reader.
The device is poised to launch Barnes & Noble into the handheld device market, both in the specialized e-reader market as well as the larger portable electronics field. Its own reader would compete against upcoming hardware with explicit support for Barnes & Noble's online bookstore, such as the iRex DR300SG and a future Plastic Logic reader, but would also represent the first US e-reader after the Amazon Kindle with a complete hardware and software ecosystem. Apple is also rumored to be putting e-books on iTunes in preparation for a large touchscreen tablet.
Update: A tip from a source claiming to be developing Barnes & Noble's mobile apps has told Gizmodo the e-reader hardware is running Google's Android platform. Few other details are mentioned, though this would likely involve a pared-down version optimized for e-paper reading rather than the full version found on smartphones.