We've seen so many e-book readers of late that it's difficult to get excited about another, but Kobo's angle here might just make the Kobo eReader worth a look. Kobo's game is ecosystem, and in fact it doesn't plan on making a big splash in the actual e-reader market, since it's primarily about building branded software and delivering branded e-book stores for others, including manufacturers (like Plastic Logic), and booksellers (like Borders). Still, the 6-inch E Ink reader is fine hardware in its own right, with quality plastics throughout, a nice patterned rubber back, and a big friendly d-pad for paging through books. The device is actually laid out to mitigate accidental button presses -- even the menu buttons labelled on the front are actually located on the side of the device. As far as software and capabilities, the device is utterly barebones, but at least it keeps its aesthetics throughout, and everything seems responsive and intuitive. There's no 3G onboard (you sync your e-pub titles with a desktop app over USB), no specific word on storage (our guess is in the 1GB to 4GB range), and there don't seem to be any other activities available to reading books. Hopefully you're into that sort of thing, and Kobo at least pre-loaded 100 public domain titles to get you started. The unit will be sold at Borders this summer for $149, preceded by Indigo Books & Music in Canada in May.
Meanwhile, Kobo isn't neglecting its devices strategy. It already has BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Mac, and PC (and some others we're likely forgetting), but it's also showing an iPad app that looks all ready to go. There aren't many details about it, but like all things Kobo it looks pretty single purpose and slick -- check out the screenshots below.
Editor's note: due to the horrible lighting conditions at the CTIA event we were attending, we had to photograph the device under the warm lights of a meat-cutting station, hence the incongruous backdrop of these hands-on photos.