[Athen] Ray Kurzweil vs. Apple: Round 1; plus Blio ETA?

Pratik Patel pratikp1 at gmail.com
Sun Jun 20 03:50:04 PDT 2010

My comments are below.



> This is surprising: Blio founder Ray Kurzweil
> publicly jabs Apple's approach to e-books:

I think it is very humorous when someone is critical of existing
technology compared to what they are "developing". Last time I checked,
the Blio system had a real slick web site and demo version, they have
missed their software delivery date by a significant margin

P: BLIO was touting a business model that would deliver more than a million
books back in October of 2008. Apple's iBooks severely compromised the
business model-particularly because one of the selling points was going to
be built-in accessibility. Things got very interesting, at least from
Kurzweil's perspective, when Apple decided to enter the market. In a market
where Amazon had a firm foothold until now, Apple decided to enter with a
splash. Where there was one source of competition, now there are two.
Amazon's stock is down because it is predicted that iBooks will eat into
Amazon's profits. Kurzweil is trying to enter a market that, all of a
sudden, seems a bit crowded. Despite his name recognition, Kurzweil has not
been in the book selling business; nor has he had a proven track record of
working with the publishing industry, which, as we all know from experience,
could be quite tough. The business model relies on making money from book
sales. Kurzweil has to find ways to keep on making noise so that his
mythical product doesn't get forgotten or become irrelevant. Let's not
forget that Google is expected to start selling books through its store this
summer as well.

There was a significant amount of press back in January and the promise
was that the software was to be released in mid-February. Maybe this is
them trying to get back in the news?

P: The press coverage started in October of last year, promising a delivery
date of November. Then, at CES, the delivery date moved to February.
Rumers popped up that a PC version of the software would be available first
sometime in April and then mobile versions would be made available. Least
to say, none of this has yet come through.

> It's interesting but the Bilo's website says
> nothing about accessibility of the software to
> the disabled, rather odd given Ray Kurzweil background.

Good point. Perhaps they are leaving that to the device manufacturers?

P: Having heard controlled demos, I can say that the PC version of the
software will be somewhat accessible. Same thing about the iPhone version.
There were quite a few issues with the iPhone demo. If there are plans to
make other mobile versions, no one in public knows them yet.

> The formats supported do not include DAISY either
> which is again is a curious omission.

P: Nor does it support epub. This is a proprietary format based on
Microsoft's XPS. This only makes me go: "what the ----!" I am incredibly
disappointed (but not surprised) that the NFB is a part of the venture which
has decided to completely throw out years of hard work in favor of something
entirely proprietary and something that hasn't been proven at all. Years of
accessibility work done by many of us has been compromised.

I read an article awhile back in which Mr. Kurzweil indicated a
preference to go after major publishers for support. I wonder if this
is a reflection as to what formats publishers are preferring for content
delivery. Still, to not include support for this format in the actual
reader seems a bit odd.

P: I wouldn't go so far as to presume that publishers are preferring this
format. If they're going after publishers, then it's a pure and simple sell
job on Kurzweil's part.

I am *really* hoping we will see this project come to fruition before
the Fall quarter. If the application meets at least some of the Web
page "hype" this could still be quite an interesting reader.

Take care,

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