The Toronto-based division of Rakuten also announced the Glo and the Mini e-reader devices

Toronto’s Kobo throws tablet gauntlet at Amazon

Toronto-based Kobo Inc. proclaimed it is going toe-to-toe against some mobile device juggernauts today with today’s reveal of a new tablet and e-reader devices – just hours before Amazon did the same.

Kobo, which was acquired in January by Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten, announced the seven-inch Arc tablet running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It also unveiled two new e-ink reader devices, the six-inch screen Glo, and the aptly named five-inch screen Mini. For the e-books firm that spun out of Indigo Books in 2010, the move emphasizes the firm’s hardware strategy as it has now launched seven devices in the past two and a half years.

First look at the Kobo Arc tablet.

“What we find is a person that has a Kobo device in hand is simply going to be a better customer to us. Meaning they buy more books, they consume more content,” says Todd Humphrey, executive vice-president of business development at Kobo. “The strategy is to get the devices, whether it is a Mini, a Glo, a Touch, or an Arc in their hands and that will allow them to further consume the content.”

The Arc will face off against Amazon’s just-announced Kindle Fire HD tablets, offered in both a seven-inch and 8.9-inch version; and Google’s recently launched Nexus 7 tablet.

“We’ve really set apart our device from all the other tablets out there in terms of a software and a hardware experience to make something unique, by focusing on the user,” says Jason Gamblen, director of product management for tablet devices at Kobo Inc.

Kobo’s Arc features Tapestries, a custom user interface in addition to the Android OS. It allows users to “pin” their favourite books and other content to an area that organizes it, and intelligently learns about the user’s tastes to recommend new books.

Hardware specs feature a 1280 x 800 HD display, a 1.5 GHZ dual-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM. There’s a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for videoconferencing and the battery life is rated for 10 hours of continuous use with WiFi turned off, and two weeks on standby.

It’s a step up from the Kobo Vox, and Android 2.3 tablet launched last year with an 850 MHZ processor.

“We look at the Vox as a first-generation product,” Gamblen says. “Not only does the Arc leapfrog the competition, it really brings the level of experience to something entirely new.”

Kobo’s Arc goes on sale in November, $199.99 for the 8 GB version and $249.99 for the 16 GB version.

Coming Oct. 1 are Kobo’s two e-ink readers. The Glo has a six-inch screen, which can be lit up for reading in the dark, with enough on-board storage for more than 1,000 e-books. It will retail for $129.99. The five-inch screen Mini will sell for $79.99.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Editor at ITBusiness.ca. E-mail him at bjackson@itbusiness.ca, follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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