A slew of companies unveiled eReaders at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, most of them book-centric competitors to Amazon’s Kindle. But unlike the Kindle and its ilk, Plastic Logic’s Que is being marketed as a digital briefcase for business professionals. The touchscreen device, a less sexy version of Apple's new iPad that may appeal to fans of Microsoft Office, can be used to read newspapers, magazines, and books. You can also use it to view and annotate Microsoft Office documents and PDFs, and check your Outlook e-mail and calendar. We got a sneak peak at the Que and were impressed with its light weight (about a pound) and slim profile (about 1/3 of an inch), but its overall size (8.5-by-11 inches), was a bit awkward, and its black and white screen was a bit lifeless. The Que is pricey as well, starting at $649 for a WiFi-enabled 4 GB model that holds up to 35,000 documents, but we like the concept.
With more companies storing data in the cloud, hardware makers are loading printers and scanners with features that make it easier to create and manage digital documents. At CES, Canon introduced four multifunction printers with an Auto Document Fix feature that makes scanned documents easier to read by automatically sharpening and blackening them, as well as removing the background on newspaper and magazine pages. The Pixma MX870, the most expensive model in the line, is priced at just $200. Canon’s higher-end laser printers, including the ImageCLASS MF4690 all-in-one laser printer, which costs $399, lets you send scanned documents directly to an e-mail address or USB flash drive.
By now, we've all heard about the new Apple iPad tablet, a hybrid device that's part smartphone, part laptop. But first there was the IdeaPad U1, a notebook computer from Lenovo with a detachable screen that can be used as a multi-touch slate tablet with its own processor. The two parts of the computer are designed to work together or separately in a seamless way. If you’re surfing the Web in notebook mode, for example, you can detach the tablet, which has its own processor, without interruption. The clamshell device, which has a red exterior and weighs just 3.8 pounds total, is due out on June 1 for $999. Both the iPad and the IdeaPad are likely to appeal to business users who aren't thrilled with the idea of buying multiple gadgets, then schlepping them from meeting to meeting.
It may soon be easier for business travelers to watch TV on their smartphones thanks to a new crop of easy-to-use accessories. Juice pack TV, an iPhone case by Mophie due out this summer, has a built-in antenna that lets you watch broadcast programming from FLO TV on your phone. Another device called the Tivit uses an antenna to pick up free digital TV signals from local TV stations and transmit them to mobile phones via Wi-Fi. The pocket-sized Tivit box, slated to debut this spring for $120, works with a variety of phones, including the iPhone, the Droid, and the Blackberry.
Hardware companies at CES underscored energy efficiency and environmental stewardship as key design considerations. HP announced the new Compaq 8000f Elite Ultra Slim Desktop PC, which is entirely free of toxic materials such as PVCs and BFRs and will be available in February starting at $849. The EliteBook 8440 and 8540 series of notebooks, which start at $1,299 and are due out in February, are also BFR and PVC free. Both the notebooks and desktop come loaded with HP’s Power Assistant, which helps you gauge and manage your power usage. If your notebook battery is running low during a meeting, for example, you can adjust your settings to consume less power and get through the meeting.