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Kobo tablet to do battle with Kindle Fire, iPad

Just months after launching a touchscreen e-reader at BookExpo America, Kobo has unveiled its latest e-reading device, a 7″ colour tablet that will go head-to-head against the Kindle Fire and other tablet devices. The Kobo Vox will tie into Kobo’s online store of more than 2.2 million e-books, and will allow users to surf the Web, check e-mail, and download apps for its Android operating system.

Kobo is billing the device as the world’s first “social e-reader,” as it will allow readers to plug into Facebook and Kobo’s unique social platform, Reading Life. The device’s name comes from the idea of the vox populi, or “voice of the people.”

The device retails at $199.99 and is available for pre-order in Canada and the U.S. It will begin shipping Oct. 28.

The Financial Post has the technical specs:

The Kobo Vox is built on the Gingerbread version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system and will enable users to download applications, watch movies and listen to music in addition to read digital books. Users will also be able to access their email via the device ” it supports Microsoft ActiveSync, IMAP and POP technology ” whether they’re using Gmail, Yahoo or corporate email.

The Post‘s Tech Desk editor, Matt Hartley, goes on to point out that the WiFi-only Kobo Vox is half the price of the least expensive versions of Apple’s iPad and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook. Unlike the Kindle Fire, which begins shipping in the U.S. beginning Nov. 15, it is being made immediately available to Canadian consumers.

The tablet will stand out in Canada, where the selection of e-readers is sparse, but as columnist Michael Kozlowski of Goodereader.com points out, Kobo faces an uphill battle in a U.S. market already saturated with inexpensive e-readers and tablets:

Kobo had an agreement with Borders to exclusively sell its devices in their retail locations. Since the collapse of the company Kobo has really been without a home in the retail sphere. They really need to iron out a new agreement when their contract officially expires in 2012 in order to secure more stores to peddle their wares.