D8 Tech Demo: Start-Up Takes on the Textbook With Kno Tablet

Our garages have no flying cars, our cities are still built on the ground and our robots just barely clean the floor. But today, Kno, the secretive start-up formerly known as Kakai, hopes to answer one of technology’s promises by replacing the dense poundage of textbooks weighing down backpacks everywhere with its new tablet device (also called Kno).

The clamshell device resembles Microsoft’s (MSFT) recently abandoned Courier project with a pair of touchscreens that open and shut like a book. Details have been sparse from the company, but we do know that it will offer an online store linked to the device for purchase of materials. Kno shares a co-founder with Chegg, the online textbook rental service, and early partnerships with Cengage Learning (CHC-WT), McGraw Hill (MHP) and Pearson and Wiley indicate that the device will include access to both textbook-style and reference-database content.

Now up, the unveiling of the Kno tablet, via video (below) and liveblog.

11:13 am: Walt and Kara take the stage again to begin the Kno demo.

11:13 am: The Kno co-founders, Osman Rashid and Babur Habib, take the stage to showcase the Kno. They say 90 people have been working for a year on the Kno.

They say their hope for the Kno is to change the way students learn.

11:15 am: The founders are unpacking what they are calling a “typical backpack.” Their example has two to four textbooks.

They say students have asked to replicate the analog experience of the book.

11:16 am: The Kno is revealed. The device is large, with two 14-inch screens that open like a book.

Rashid says that 95 percent of textbooks will fit on these screens. He adds that he feels e-textbooks have failed because textbooks don’t fit on other devices.

11:18 am: Walt, donning his Personal Technology columnist hat, asks for the weight. Kno weighs 5.5 lbs.

11:20 am: The founders announce a platform for getting books as well as several major partnerships for content.

11:21 am: The device has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and supports all document-creation formats and PDFs. The software is Linux-based.

The founders say a virtual keyboard is coming and the Kno will have a laptop mode for content creation.

11:23 am: Kno guys say that the stylus is important for learning, and the Kno will have one.

The software looks very slow, but this is a very early prototype, the founders remind the audience.

11:25 am: Kno will allow for highlighting and stickies, and includes a UI element to help students know how much more they have left to read.

Answering Walt’s pushback on the technology, the founders add that the OS is Linux-based with WebKit- and hardware-accelerated Flash and a full browser.

Kno Kakai tablet demo.

11:28 am: Walt asks if the device will include Facebook and Twitter. The answer is yes, but the founders say the feedback from faculty and staff is good and they hope for acceptance from professors.

Pricing will be announced over summer; they say it will be below $1,000.

Kara reminds the crowd that the company is in stealth mode.

Rashid says the company will be raising funds over the summer.

11:31 am: They finish with an examination of the “binding,” which is made of seat-belt-like material that allow for flexibility between the twin panels. They have plans to customize colors for school affiliation.

11:33 am: The Kno guys leave the stage with Kara as D8 transitions to the next guest, John Donahoe, CEO of eBay (EBAY)

A note about our coverage: This liveblog is not an official transcript of the conversation that occurred onstage. Rather, it is a compilation of quotes, paraphrased statements and ad-lib observations written and posted to the Web as quickly as we were able. It was not intended as a transcript and should not be interpreted as one.

Kno Demo Photos

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Kno Kakai tablet demo.


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