A Failed Entourage Edge Pilot Reveals That it was a Device Launched Before Its Time

When the Entourage Edge was revealed in late 2009 it immediately caught the attention of all the tech blogs. It had a dual screen design that hadn't been seen before, and it was launching in the pre-iPad era where ereaders were hot news (there were no Android tablets yet). The Edge was the darling of CES 2010, where Entourage's tiny booth was nearly flattened in the crush.

Its death 18 months later came as something of a surprise, and it wasn't until today that I could say that I really understood why it died.

This was a tablet that launched before its time, and I have the results from a pilot program to prove it.

While there have been numerous pilot programs that tested ereaders in the classroom and a huge amount of pilot and ongoing programs that use the iPad in the classroom, I know of only one pilot program that tested the Entourage Edge. This was at the City University of New York, where a couple undergraduate classes tested the Edge in the fall of 2010.

A few days ago I got it into my head to go look up the results of that pilot. It wasn't very large, and it didn't run very long, but the pilot continued long enough that someone documented the problems with this dual-screen tablet.

Not very many people liked it, and in fact one early feedback report says that 14 out of 18 students polled thought that the pilot should be cancelled. A number of students also reported abandoning the Edge before the semester was over because it was a hindrance to learning.

But the most interesting point about this pilot was that most of the complaints were issues that were common to a lot of Android devices circa 2010.

For example, the Edge was faulted for the software not being easy to use and for not coming with very many apps installed. Apps were also reportedly hard to find.

Nothing there is a surprise. The Edge ran Android 1.6, which wasn't terribly user friendly. But it was about the only option when Entourage was developing the firmware in September 2009. Sure Android 2.0 came out in October 2009, but I'm not sure it's fair to fault a small company for keeping 1.6. They probably didn't want to spend the resources to start again. And as for the apps, everyone had trouble finding Android apps in late 2010. If you didn't have Android Market this was a serious problem - in 2010.

The Edge was also faulted for hardware issues. It was heavy (not that there was much you can do about that). There were complaints about the Wacom touchscreen on the E-ink side (stylus kept getting lost), and the screen geometry of the 10" LCD screen. The device was also slow and tended to crash.

Guess what? All those issues have stopped being issues as new and better devices have been released.  The LCD screen, which was described as being too tall, was likely Entourage's only option in 2009. Now they could use a 9.7" screen with the same dimensions as the E-ink screen, but I doubt  anyone was making them then. And as for the E-ink screen, a modern Edge would use Neonode's IR touchscreen, not Wacom. What's more, a modern Edge would also have a faster multi-core CPU.

And do you know what? If someone made an Edge dual screen tablet today they could even do something about the weight. Think about the Asus eeePad Transformer. What if someone applied the idea of removable dock to the existing design of the Edge?

The E-ink screen could be the second optional component. (I'd prefer the other way around, but I'm probably a minority.) This would let users pull one part out of their backpack and manipulate it like a tablet. They'd then pull out the E-ink side and dock them together when it was time for serious study.

But as much as I like the idea, it's probably never going to happen. The very concept is now tarred with the failure of the Entourage Edge, so there's little chance that a startup would want to try again.

And I don't think even Asus will give it a shot. I know a lot of people with the Transformer, and of that group hardly anyone also bought the keyboard dock. A dock with an E-ink screen would probably fare even worse. And to be honest, I'd much rather have a pair of LCD screens than I'd want an E-ink screen. It feels like it would be more useful that way.

The Entourage Edge truly was a gadget before its time, and by the time the tech was there to build a really good device the company was out of money.  As a result when a truly usable design hit the market, the brand said Asus, not Entourage.  The Transformer may have had a keyboard instead of a second screen, but I can't help but look at them and wonder if one inspired the other.

About Nate Hoffelder (11463 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

14 Comments on A Failed Entourage Edge Pilot Reveals That it was a Device Launched Before Its Time

  1. I bought a Pocket Edge off eBay recently. My main intent was just to play with the device and to learn about Android OS upgrades since you can easily upgrade the device to 2.2. It is a very interesting concept. I can see that it would be very useful but also that it would take a dedicated user time to learn the features in order to benefit from the device. This may have been its biggest draw back. After a month with the device I am still not familiar with all of the features.

    Interestingly I also use on a daily basis a Sony Tablet P running 3.0. It is amazing to compare the two devices and see how far the tablet market has come in less then 3 years. Using Sony’s customized eBook reader software the Tablet P makes a great book reader using a 2 page layout when held vertically.

  2. Hmmm. Yeah, lose the E-ink. I think 2 lcd screens makes more sense, although who wants to hold something in there hands that weighs more than 1.6 pounds to be exact.

    • No way, that is just the combination: for long reading E-ink, for taking notes, surfing, etc. LCD, with an option to mirror or move the content from LCD to E-ink and vice versa (should be possible). I would buy a device like that without thinking twice. It should be as light as possible, of course.
      With faster E-ink this will probably never be built, but one can dream.

  3. I think the best part of the edge was how the two screens interacted with each other. I liked I could have my book open on one side, take notes on the other, or turn any webpage I wanted into epub. It had some really useful features I’d love to see someone license. Even if its just two LCD screens, I’d be up for it.

    Although, I also wanted a Courier and Microsoft axed its most innovative project.

  4. The concept is so perfect for school. To date I cannot find an e reader that would be worth it for school, touchscreen that is easy for taking notes. Sure some of the newest e readers are touch but they are so closed system it seems like it would be a huge pain to transfer those notes to a more centralized location.

    what about this concept in a netbook form where the e ink screen could become the virtual keyboard, it would use almost no power to keep the screen on keyboard mode. When you want to read through a book or a lot of txt or something you can send it to the e ink screen and voila. This concept has too much potential to let go to waste. I like the separation idea too!

  5. I was very disappointed when Microsoft scrapper the Courier. I bought an Entourage Pocket Edge which I was very pleased with. Imagine my distress when that company went bust. The dual screen and stylus is a great invention! I can’t see why somebody like Samsung can’t make millions on a product like it. It’s perfect, not only for students.

  6. This is a great concept and it’s true that it’s way ahead of its time. Asus or Samsung will be the only companies on their right mind who might revive this concept. One can do research on the LCD side while taking notes on the e-Paper side. They should be detachable so you can place one or the other to an optional keyboard dock. In addition, they should be available for purchase separately so you can purchase the other later when you actually need it.

    One comment I have of the picture is that why is the LCD on the right and the EPD on the left? Most people write with their right hand. Maybe you can turn it around so the display flips but wouldn’t the icons be upside down?

  7. I bought the PE in 2010 and love it. I use it mainly for work. My co-workers were fascinated by it, mainly because of it’s novelty. I wish I had bought the EE when the price went down. I hoped the company could have found investors to support R&D because with a few redesigns I think this device would have been a contender in the tablet space. 🙁

  8. I have read somewhere that a Russian compay is realeasing a phone with a LCD Screen on one side and e-ink on the other.

  9. Count me in as someone who thinks that they were too far ahead of the rest. I thought that one way to use the reader side in conjunction with the tablet, was to have the option to use it as a keyboard. How many times have we seen stories about companies trying to create customizable, reconfigurable keyboards? This device could have had one built-in from the start. Depending on the situation, the reader could be a keyboard for the tablet, or the other way around. I might still look for one just for novelty’s sake.

  10. I paid almost $700 for my entourage Edge when it first came out. It came with NO instructions. To tbis day, I’ve yet got to use it because I can’t even initialize the thing. Does anyone out there have any help for me?

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