Plastic Logic was in the news just yesterday for its partnership with Barnes and Noble, but today it’s also revealed a tie-up with AT&T that directly pitches it against Amazon’s Kindle. And, just possibly, for much more than that.
The Barnes and Noble partnership creates a potent e-book ecosystem thanks to B&N’s huge book library. But, appearing as a rival to the Kindle it lacks one feature–that e-book’s wireless Whispernet service for on-the-go downloads of media. Which is where Plastic Logic’s new announcement comes in. It’s brokered a deal with AT&T to use the network’s 3G system in the U.S., thus adding in the missing on-the-go download capability, and making it a true Kindle competitor. The company’s VP of Business Development, Daren Benzi, phrases it neatly: “Built-in 3G access adds mobility to the product and allows users access to books at all times, wherever they are.”
And he really does mean at all times–the Plastic Logic e-reader also has built-in Wi-fi, unlike the current crop of Kindles, and AT&T’s Wi-fi hotspot network also seems to be part of the deal. That means U.S. owners will be able to get online for new books in many more locations, and–here’s where it really beats the Kindle–for business-related documents on the Web, since the e-reader supports PDF and Microsoft Office format documents.
There may also be another subtlety in this news: Partnering with AT&T means using GSM-format 3G, a system that’s in global use versus the Kindle’s CDMA Sprint offering. Meanwhile, Plastic Logic’s deal with Barnes and Noble is by no means an exclusive arrangement. These two facts could suggest the company will be pursuing similar deals elsewhere in the World in the future. That’s a strategy that Amazon’s been slow to develop itself, with its exclusive in-house hardware and U.S.-centric Kindle business plan. And that could have created the perfect environment for Plastic Logic to move into new territory before Amazon does.