Doomed IndieGogo Project Wants to Fund a Laptop with a 13″ E-ink Screen
Crowd funding can sometimes be a way for unusual products to find a market before any units get made, but sometimes it instead reveals that there isn’t a market or that potential buyers don’t see a project as being viable.
For example, there’s a new project on IndieGogo this week which seeks to build a laptop for writers called the Fusion Writer. This entirely untested design would be built around a 13.3″ E-ink screen. It would run Android with a customized word processing app, be waterproof, and (according to the claims of the promoter) sport a 2 month battery life.
The backers want to raise $50,000 to develop and ship the Fusion Writer, with the first units to arrive around the end of 2015.
After 4 days they have raised $10. Yeah, I don’t see this project getting funded.
While you might write off the lack of success as a failure to draw attention to the campaign, I suspect that everyone (including the bloggers who aren’t writing about it) who has looked at this so far has reached the conclusion that this is one project which probably won’t make its funding goal, but even if it did it won’t ship the product.
For one thing, the fact that there was a simultaneous Kickstarter project makes the backers appear either sketchy or naive; I don’t know which. But that point is less important than my feeling that the backers don’t know what they are getting into.
This Indiegogo campaign seeks to raise $50,000 to develop a new device from scratch. I’ve never done this myself but that doesn’t strike me as being nearly enough money to develop a new design, much less get it into production.
Hardware development for a device as complicated as a laptop can run into the millions of dollars, and that doesn’t include the cost of producing the laptop. And even development costs for a simpler device, like the Earl back country tablet for example, will run in to the tens of thousands of dollars – and that device hasn’t even shipped yet.
The combined development and production costs for a laptop simply cannot be squeezed into $50,000. That is enough to maybe fund a conversion kit so backers can do a DIY conversion on an existing laptop,but building a complete unit?
And that’s a shame, because I really liked this idea.
puzzled October 9, 2014 um 4:31 pm
I’m still waiting for my Earl…
Thomas October 9, 2014 um 5:52 pm
Looks way too specialized. Even writers want their laptop to do more than word processing. And most folks don’t do much writing in places where battery life is a big issue.
Nate Hoffelder October 9, 2014 um 6:40 pm
Indeed. Generally places without power also lack connectivity, which means you can’t get your content out anyway.
Justin April 26, 2015 um 8:59 pm
I don’t think battery life was the appeal here. But even if you count out bloggers, 300,000 books a year are published. Many authors I know write in cabins in solitude and get away from any distraction possible. Add to that screenwriters, academics and any one who gets eye strain staring at a screen or desires focus in their word processing (even developers or students), and is think there could be a powerful niche market.
whateveragain October 9, 2014 um 6:59 pm
Better to deveopl an e-ink tablet designed to work with a keyboard. The Onyx can do it already I think. All we need is a 10+ inch e-ink screen with USB / BT.
Nate Hoffelder October 9, 2014 um 7:28 pm
That would have greater usability, yes.
But even so, who needs that much battery life these days?
Justin April 26, 2015 um 8:55 pm
Battery life is great but the appeal of e-ink for a writer is the lack of lumens glaring in your eyes. That and it’s close resemblance to a book.
Ivan Samokish October 9, 2014 um 10:50 pm
My name is Ivan and I am the one who came up with this idea. I do appreciate the constructive criticism outlined in the article and you do raise some good points. Although "doomed" does sounds a bit pessimistic, I do understand why there are several factors working against this project (most of which you outlined).
However, regarding the Kickstarter project that was my own as well. I posted it and took it off after getting about $100 to back it. The issue was that Kickstarter would not allow me to offer the device as a pledge due to the fact that it was raising funds for a prototype.
With regards to the $50,000 point – yes laptops take probably millions to develop but that includes salaries for people who work for the company, time taken to develop, parts used, etc. When you add up all the salaries times the amount of time taken to make it happen – yes it does take millions.
$50,000 may seem a modest figure. But if you take into account that a maximum of 2 people, each with full time jobs will be working on it in their spare time, this entire sum is more than enough to develop a working prototype. Whereas others set high goals in order to fund their project, plus earn something on top, this is not my goal.
The parts needed are modest in their own right and can be sourced from many reliable suppliers. The most expensive part in this device would actually be the screen itself.
The Earl cost more because it attempted to squeeze a whole lot of functionality into a small package. The Fusion Writer is meant for just a few things – writing, reading and just sharing documents or checking email.
I agree it is a niche idea. It may not reach it’s goal, you may be right. If not enough funds are raised I will definitely be working on it in my spare time : )
Mike Coville October 10, 2014 um 8:13 am
I think this is a cool idea. My only concern will be price point. If it costs more than Surface or Galaxy Note 10.1, then it will not succeed. You sound like you have the drive to see this through, and I hope you get your funding. Good luck.
Graves February 13, 2015 um 5:27 pm
I have been looking all over for something like this. The Japanese Pomera 20 and 100 are the only devices that seem to come close, but they’re Japanese. Further, they’re not much more than device for taking notes, not a word processor.
As a writer, regular laptops offer too many distractions. I’ve heard of some writers removing modems and gluing up their Ethernet jacks so they can focus.
Few people build niche electronics, but I’m sure there’s a market out there. Personally, I love the idea of an elegantly designed product that aims to streamline the writing process. Well packaged, reasonably priced, and intelligently marketed, I believe this device is definitely viable.
Justin April 26, 2015 um 8:53 pm
I totally agree. I’m a web developer and writer. Too much screen time. I need something like e-ink that won’t kill my eyes. And I absolutely love the idea of a distraction-free device. All writing products have been emphasizing distraction-free environments for a while but they still are accessed through a computer… Where email interrupts and a million distractions are a click away. I want to go to a park and camp out and then lock myself away in my room – all with one focus: to think and write. I would’ve bought this product even without many of the bells and whistles.
The Hemingwrite Wants to be Your Retro Word Processor on the Go – The Digital Reader October 19, 2014 um 6:40 pm
[…] the Hemingwrite; I think it has a much more practical design than the Fusionwriter I wrote about a couple weeks ago. But I also don’t think there is much of a market for the Hemingwrite, not when there’s […]