WePadThe gadget world is still a’flutter over the impending doom release that is the Apple iPad, but German techmongers Neofonie have recently shown off their own tablet, the also-unfortunately named WePad. German engineering isn’t exactly synonymous with gadgetgasms, but TechCrunch EU broke down why this might be a far sexier fit for your grubby little hands.

My own opinion runs thusly: For one, the WePad is set to run Linux with an Android 2.0+ shell (which means it’ll have access to the Android Market for apps), but it’s got more ports (in and out), a 1 or 3 megapixel camera, it’s not locked down to any eBook format, it can actually multi-task, and oh yeah…it’s rocking display that’s 2 inches bigger.

I far prefer reading via physical media rather than on a screen, but what’s really kept me from jumping on the Kindle/eBook reader wagon is the size. Not only from a ‘does this fit my hands well’ point of view, but because I read FAST*, and I like to have a lot of text available at once. An 11 inch tablet sounds just about the right size for reading not only books, but magazines and comics as well at a font-size that’s bearable on my eyes and suitable for my appetite. Another pet peeve is that I can’t stomach that e-reading pretty much demolishes well designed page layouts, and it’s devices like these that give me hope that we’ll get the advantages of an e-reader without sacrificing quality print design. Sometimes it’s the layout that’s as engaging as the text itself, so being able to kiss single/dual column bland text layouts is a plus. And hell, the idea of having a tablet that almost perfectly mimics the page size of a comic book is just deliriously tantalizing. (Dear Marvel/DC/etc, get your ass behind a quality subscription service that lets me jump from tablet to laptop to PC and I’ll be the first guy on board).

Of course, there’s no word on a US distribution for the WePad, let alone a starting price point. $500 dollars for the baseline iPad strikes me as ridiculous (since I could get a far more powerful netbook for less), let alone the whopping $829 for the fully loaded version (that also requires a subscription for the 3G data plan). Hey, Apple? When you say “unbelievable price”, you ain’t kidding. I’m hoping that someone out there (*cough* newspaper/magazine publishers *cough*) understands that the path to mass adoption is a price point that makes sense for a device with such narrow consumer applications, so perhaps publishers/manufacturers will understand that they can cut Apple off at the knees if they subsidize the up-front cost and make it up with truly rewarding subscription services.

In any case, I’ll be curious to see how this next front in the war on our gadget pocketbooks plays out. I still think Apple is seriously overestimating the appeal of the iPad, but who knows? I still think the Zen was a better mp3 player than the iPod, so it’s not like I’ve been on the winning team every time.

*Thanks to study classes in junior high, my wpm reading speed is ridiculous. It’s not a bragging point, as it destroys my ability to enjoy the language of print if I don’t consciously slow down, but it’s germane to the topic as speed reading on an ebook sucks.

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