Plastic Logic Gets Second Chance With Russian Funds To Make Business Reader

E-reader maker Plastic Logic may finally have benched its long-awaited, first-generation monochrome Que tablet this August after 18 months of delays – but could a second life be on the cards?

The firm says it’s taking “a significant investment” from Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (Rusnano) to make a factory in Russia for a second-generation device.

Plastic Logic, spun out of England’s Cambridge University in 2000, has long worked on using polymer transistors in electronic displays, creating a low-energy, low-quality tablet screen. Its website says it had already taken over $200 million in venture funding. But the Que, slated for launch in January 2009, faced delays and was overtaken by the high-colour iPad and even the Kindle, before the firm conceded an eventual launch would be worthless.

The company says it will maintain its Cambridge R&D facility, its Mountain View HQ and its Dresden factory but will open a second production centre.

In the joint funding announcement, Plastic Logic boasts about its plastic electronics IP, which it says has “many economic, manufacturing, form factor and environmental benefits, and will ultimately replace traditional silicon semiconductor glass-based display products in a variety of devices in the future.”

That may sound like Plastic Logic is merely touting some of its work-to-date for other uses. But it’s also being specific about a new reader: “The display is at the core of Plastic Logic’s first commercial consumer electronics product, a next-generation electronic reader for business that is currently under development.”

The pair say the new factory will be “capable of producing hundreds of thousands of units a month”. Right now, that kind of place at the tablet table may look optimistic for Plastic Logic.

But it has been in this technology’s space for a decade and, though it has been Apple’s, and not its own, technology which has lit the blue touch paper under this new opportunity, the enthusiasm shown by the likes of News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) toward the form factor means that there may yet remain a significant share to be won with the right product.