Apple collaborating with Amazon, Google, and Cingular on new iReader?

UPDATE: some people didn’t get that this entire post was an April Fools joke. Sorry for being too realistic.

I was going to not blog until Monday, but I saw something today that just has to be blogged about. Seriously, on Monday I’ll be on CNN with Kathy Sierra and Chris Locke talking about this week’s events. I spoke against more rules or other infringments on our freedom of speech. No matter how vile or disgusting that speech is. That said, I reserve my right to take a week off to point out the rotten strawberries sitting on our meme shelf.

Back to what I saw: today we were eating at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay when I saw someone down on the beach using a device I didn’t recognize. Being a geek I quickly ran down to the beach to see what it was. Turns out he was an Apple executive (he asked me not to name him) and tried to hide the device when I came near, but I eventually talked him into showing it off to me.

Apple, he told me, is looking to bring out an iPhone family of devices that’ll extend your iPhone into new usage patterns. The device that he was carrying around was built by a long-rumored Tablet team inside Apple. The executive also had an early iPhone production sample — we’ll talk about that later and how it works with this new device.

Remember the Sony Reader? Well, it’s sorta like that. It uses a similar screen. Why? Cause Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ives found that they couldn’t comfortably use their iPhones in bright sunlight. Especially to read long portions of text. Since Jobs is an avid book reader, and Ives reads a ton of RSS feeds (the executive says he brags that he reads as many feeds as Scoble) they were looking for a new device that’d make it possible to read, while using the wireless features of the iPhone.

Anyway the device looked just like the Sony Reader, except it was white. It also was slightly longer than a Sony Reader cause it’s has a keyboard, Blackberry style, at the bottom of the device. It also has a red stripe along the side that contains an innovative navigation device so you can click on certain parts of documents, or links in those parts, to visit other pages. That “iStrip” is what makes it possible to read RSS feeds and click on links.

But that’s about where the similarities with the Sony Reader end. The device has nice, large buttons on either side of the screen to go forward and back between pages. It also has a keyboard. And, comes with some really unique software that go way beyond what Sony offers.

First, there are two models. One costs $499 and works wirelessly with an iPhone. The other is $599 and comes with a built-in Cingular wireless modem (and free service for a year).

Then on the device there’s a really nice UI (it’s Apple, remember!) Lets you get quickly to books, feeds, newspapers, magazines.

I only had time to try some feeds and books. The book reader is magical. You can buy any Amazon ebook and have it delivered to the machine in about one minute, thanks to the Bluetooth networking capability with the iPhone. I bought a copy of Long Tail and was reading it in just a little more than 70 seconds. Much easier than going to Borders and picking up a physical copy.

Then I was paging through the book. The screen was bright, sharp (thanks to new font sharpening technology that makes the fonts 30% sharper than similar technology from Microsoft called “ClearType.” He said they found out a new way of filtering visual noise out that makes our eyes perceive the font as sharper.)

He told me that Amazon built the book buying and reading software, together with an Apple team, and you can buy a variety of books instantly using the wireless capabilities. It was easy to use and beautiful. I instantly wanted one to read books on. When you see this device you’ll probably write “paper books are dead.”

Each page doesn’t appear instantly, as it does on an LCD screen. Instead this screen technology actually has really tiny balls that spin over to reveal either black or white (or up to 256 shades of gray — he said a color version is in development but won’t come out until 2008). The advantage to using this kind of screen? It works in bright sunlight, like at the beach. It also takes very little power and never is turned off. Once the device generates an image on the screen it no longer needs any power. He told me he read four books already without charging the battery (more than a dozen hours of constant reading).

The device was totally remarkable. I want one. He told me they probably would ship in July or August “we need some reason for you to come back into an Apple store after you pick up your iPhone in June.”

Oh, I forgot about the feed reader. It’s a unique version of Google’s Reader, built to use the “iStrip” navigation device. It’ll come by default with some feeds, they aren’t sure how many. I saw TechCrunch. LifeHacker. BoingBoing. Digg. Scripting News. I signed in with my name and the device instantly was synched up with feeds I hadn’t yet read either. One other thing I noticed is that there was a “Steve Jobs blog.” The exec grabbed it out of my hands when I was about to read that.

Well, I went back up to Sam’s Chowder House, told everyone about the new device, told Maryam that she’s going to need to wait on the crib purchase, cause I had to have one this summer. Our new baby can sleep on the floor, I figure, our gadget budget is just gonna have to get strained more this summer than I was planning on.

My 13-year-old son Patrick’s reaction? (He’s a total Apple freak). “You had me there dad until you said Steve Jobs was doing a blog. That was really stretching it.”

UPDATE: Happy 10th Anniversary to Dave Winer’s Scripting News (and that’s no April Fools’ joke!)

Oh, and I am not going to post any more April Fools’ stuff to my link blog. There are SOME legitimate news items to send through the system today.