This ereader was not the planned device that Kobo would claim. Instead the design and build quality suggests that timing was more important than quality.
I can point out many flaws about Kobo, but one thing they have always gotten correct is that Kobo has hired Ideo to design the Kobo hardware. This firm has been working with Kobo since the very beginning, and Ideo is the reason that all Kobo hardware (except for the Aura HD) has a quilted backside, a rubberized shell, and a generally aesthetically pleasing appearance.
The Aura HD, on the other hand, feels and looks like the shell was made from cheap plastic. Instead of the quilted backside, this ereader has a funky weird double ridged backside that I am still trying to understand. It is clearly inferior in design and materials, and I think that is a telling clue in support of the rumor.
Edit: And I am not the only one who thinks the shell of the Aura HD looks cheap:
I think the Aura HD's hardware design was originally intended to be a reference design from Netronix. This was going to be one of the designs displayed on the Netronix website which could be ordered by companies that wanted to put their own brand on it.
That is pretty much what Kobo ended up doing, but I don't think it was what Kobo had planned to do.
I think the only reason Kobo used this hardware design for the Aura HD is that they were surprised by B&N passing on the early production run of the 6.8" screen. I think Kobo was planning to release a new ereader this Fall, but the sudden opportunity to get ahead of the marker was too good to pass up.
Kobo needed something they could get on the market ASAP so they could take advantage of the early production run of the 6.8" screen, and this design was the best they could do given the time constraints.
That ties in well with the rumor, doesn't it? I honestly think the rumor is now more plausible than the claim that Kobo had always intended to release an ereader this Spring.
But the rumor could still be wrong, and I am keeping an eye on a couple events that could prove it wrong. If Nook Media releases a new ereader in the next month then that event will disprove the rumor. I am not expecting that to happen but it could.
But one event that I am expecting is for Kobo to launch new hardware this Fall. One of the new devices is probably going to have a 6.8" screen. That device is going to the designed by Ideo, and it will largely have the same specs as the Aura HD.
After all, the Aura HD is supposed to be a limited edition, right? That means it could be replaced later this year by a new model.
It's going to be an interesting year, no?