Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad? You Mean You Haven't Heard of the WePad?

Tech Crunch
While every man and his dog is waiting for their preordered iPad to arrive, some Germans went their own way and yesterday presented a Slate that appears to have, well, better features.

The Neofonie WePad has similar form and function as the wet dreams of our Crunchgear editors, but facts are that the German Android device has a bigger multitouch screen and a faster CPU than the iPad. Also it runs Flash, has USB ports, an inbuilt card reader and expandable memory. Additionally it allows complete multitasking and has a webcam. Beat that baby.

The WePad is set to arrive sooner to German stores than its Apple counterpart and will be significantly cheaper than the iPad, says Neofonie CEO Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen. Preorders and deliveries are planned for next month and that’s no April Fool’s joke, he insisted in a small chat on the WePad’s Facebook site. At first I thought it was a fake, because some specs feel too great and the choice of OS sounds just weird: a Linux derivate with Android on top. That’s Linux with Linux inside, which makes it possible to install apps from the Android Market as well as special Adobe Air software from Neofonie.

The company from Berlin, although unknown, is no newcomer. The 12 years old Neofonie GmbH is a software company that also runs a search enginge called WeFind and sells an epublishing platform by the name of WeMagazine. It makes newspapers and magazines readable on computers and smartphones, and that’s also where they see the real business for their WePad tablet PC.

The WePad provides elderly users in the core target group of newspaper and magazine publishing houses, who generally have little to no experience with PCs with intuitive and fast access to the digital world of their children and grandchildren (Internet, e-mail, social media, etc.).

For publishing houses, every reader gained with the WePad represents a direct and long-term customer relationship, the foundation for paid content, extensive customer knowledge and new forms of customer communication. While platforms like Apple iTunes and Amazon Kindle force publishing houses into the role of a simply a content supplier, the WePad allows publishing houses to retain access to and knowledge of their audience.

So the WePad doesn’t want to do away only with Apple’s iPad but also with the Amazon Kindle, reveals the latest factsheet. That’s a tall order. Publishing houses should acquire the device and brand it with their own labels to “move traditional print readers into the digital world in a targeted manner. Print brands can then become online brands, thus minimising the contact with established Internet players like Google Amazon and Apple.”

First commenters do already suspect an alliance between the WePad and Germany’s biggest publisher, Springer, which is also based in Berlin. The many screenshots with Springer’s Hamburger Abendblatt on the WePad would be a hint.

Springer is the strongest proponent of paid content in Europe. Since November, the company blocks users with iPhones and Android devices from reading most of their newspapers’ websites with the phones’ browsers. Instead they shall buy the apps for newspapers like Europe’s biggest daily, BILD, or Springer’s B.Z. Maybe we just saw the birth of a German newspaper tablet. A working prototype was on show at the world’s largest computer expo, CeBIT, two weeks ago.

Compare and Contrast: Select Image for WePad Vs iPad Chart