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iRex, e-reader pioneer and manufacturer of the nearest thing to an iPad, has run out of cash and filed for bankruptcy protection in the Netherlands, where the company is based.

The company was spun off from Phillips and produced some of the first e-readers, including the Iliad and the DR1000, which is physically similar to Apple's iPad. But the market for hugely expensive mono-screened tablets with dodgy user interfaces was surprisingly limited, and despite rushing out a 3G-enabled version of the Iliad iRex found sales didn't pick up fast enough and has now run out of cash.

Unlike its competitors, iRex concentrated on the technology rather than services, which is a shame given that it's services that punters seem to want. We reviewed the DR1000S last year, and your correspondent actually bought one and has been using it ever since for reviewing long documents, a task at which it excels.

But the technology focus of the company continues to be evident in the almost-impossible-to-navigate interface (never, ever, let engineers design interfaces) and when compared to Apple's iPad even we had to admit there was no reason to buy an iRex these days. As one commenter on the iRex forums put it, when switching to an iPad:

"Everything is so fast and intuitive that it is a real joy to use. I have a number of scanned to PDF documents that are still in graphical format. These are unusable on the iRex as it takes so long to open, but on the iPad they open instantly and are very fast to navigate and zoom around."

An improved interface for the DR1000 and wireless Iliad is already in beta, and the company's UK rep told us that restructuring plans are in progress to try and save the company, or some of it at least.

Being a first mover isn't always the road to profitability, and much as we'd enjoy blaming Apple for crushing iRex, in reality the products just weren't rounded enough or cheap enough, even if the iPad hadn't come along to finish the job. ®

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