Transcription of email I sent:
I saw the hemingwrite on Google+ via a NaNoWriMo community, and have to say I am very interested in your device. However I have questions and concerns given the makers of Alphasmart recently had to throw the proverbial towel in, and I do not want the hemingwrite to end up going the same way.
It must be said I do not have a business degree, special knowledge of economics, or anything other than just being some random guy on the web.
That out of the way here are my questions:
* How will you deal with OS compatibility issues? Do you plan on just syncing everything to the cloud? SD card slot? Plug into another device that sees the hemingwrite's storage?
* E-Ink is, in my experience, fragile. How do you plan on keeping it from becoming useless if the device takes a few bumps or tumbles?
* writers like me tend to be mildly paranoid about losing our work. Google has proven in the past it will destroy an otherwise popular and often used service with no recourse. Is wifi going to be required? Will I be able to just hit a button combo like with alphasmart to open one of several predefined files? If the screen breaks would I be able to pull my work off of it by plugging another device in? What sort of connection does it have? USB? SD cards?
* I have vision problems, so is there a way to have the text render larger while having document font size left 'standard'? That is to say I can set 12pt font to be huge, but according to anything that renders the document elsewhere it's simply twelve point text.
* Is everything going to be keyboard controlled? I'm pretty sure a lot of the e-ink displays fragility I've seen is from the touch overlay.
* If there is a local save feature what format will it save to? Will you allow in-document bold/italic/etc? If not saving to .txt would give the greatest amount of future proofing.
For all the stuff I would like to see.
Please keep in mind I have no idea what your business plan is, final price point, or the like. However a cast aluminum case, with cherry MX switches, and wifi, and an e-ink probably will push this to $300 unless you can get so many made bulk discounts apply, or have partnerships going on. The alphasmart neo, just before it was discontinued, cost $120 with a six line LCD screen, injection moulded case, and a membrane keyboard. For most of it's run it was $170, or $210. I worry that, as good and appealing as your product is, the hemingwrite will be either vapor, or go on sale for a year or two before expenses eat your company.
An idea I had, and I do not know how it will be taken, is to have a budget version. Injection plastic case, membrane keyboard. Cut corners where you realistically can. Maybe that would make things too expensive compared to theoretical profits, but your site talks as if you want everyone to have a chance at writing. Sadly not everyone can justify a mono-task device that runs for the cost of a decent tablet. After all the alphasmart itself has both and was built to withstand classroom conditions just fine.
As for battery. Going e-ink is great. It'll really help. However, again I point to alphasmart, the last device in this market had a 700+ hour battery life off three AA batteries. I would often hear of people that would go years between swapping them out. Theoretically this is more like the Dana, however, which only had a 25 hour battery life. I like the idea of a rechargeable battery, but if it lasts as long as claims make it out to be, going to the store and picking up a pack once every couple months is OK. Plus having the pack be optional cuts down on costs, since lithium batteries are expensive.
How do you plan on getting around OS compatibility issues? If it were me I would want the host OS to see a generic keyboard and a storage device when plugged in. No funky file managers. No web interfaces. Simple. Hit 'send' on the keyboard and whatever text field the cursor is on gets the text typed out on it. You get rid of compatibility issues there and basically make it so the device will work on anything usb can plug into. Being able to see its storage would mean even if, say, the kid you're babysitting, or rough handling, or whatever breaks the screen you will still be able to get your work off the device.
Personally I want to be able to save on device, to google docs/evernote/whatever, be able to type, and onto an external SD card. Losing work sucks. Relying on the cloud, frankly, is asking for trouble. Also it means having to keep the wifi bits on, which goes against the 'cabin in the woods' concept, and puts drain on the batteries. Plus what if you don't have good wifi either because at a friend's, school, just moved and internet isn't hooked up, or whatever?
Again. I am very excited about this device and I want of to succeed. I simply wanted my concerns and feedback known.