That's reportedly what fully state-owned Rusnano (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) paid for a 25-percent stake in Plastic Logic, a California-based developer of flexible computer screens and other products that use "the highly disruptive technology of plastic electronics," according to its website. More was presumably spent to distribute around 1,000 of Plastic Logic's ruggedly designed electronic textbooks free of charge to schools in six regions of Russia.
Rusnano was launched as a deep-pocketed venture with the lofty goal of leading the way in creating a $29 billion line of Russian products by 2015, according to a "Wall Street Journal" interview with its head, Yeltsin-era privatization architect and former Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. Instead, reports suggest it's lost handfuls of cash despite its connections.
Plastic Logic's entry in the exploding e-reader market is a light, shatterproof, soft-touch device with four gigabytes of storage and an 800-megahertz processor.
The gadget was touted as "the textbook of the future" in a "Telegraph" online supplement in October that probably said as much about the sketchy nature of outsourced supplements (this one, called "Russia Now," was produced by "Rossiskaya gazeta") as it did about digital tools like e-readers.
But now Plastic Logic has suffered a "disruption" of its own.
"Nature" reports that the joint venture between Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory and Rusnano is walking away from its e-reader:
So the big boys are safe for the moment with their Kindles and Nooks and iPads.
But the Russians are undeterred and remain in it for the longer haul, according to a senior Rusnano executive.
It's unclear how well the Plastic Logic e-readers were received by Russian students, who might be reluctant to adopt a device that doesn't support either games or Internet browsing.
They were the primary culprit in the demise of Plastic Logic's strategy, according to at least one analyst. After all, they're such children:
-- Andy Heil