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Atom-based tablet runs Android, targets publishers

Mar 19, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

A Berlin-based software company is preparing an Intel Atom N450-based e-reader that runs Linux with Android extensions. Billed as the “tablet PC for publishing houses,” Neofonie GmbH's “WePad” tablet sports an 11.6-inch touchscreen, 16GB of flash storage, a SD card, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB, and a webcam, says Neofonie.

Targeting "elderly newspaper and magazine readers," the WePad is designed for rebranding by publishers on their own terms, thus "minimizing the contact with established Internet players like Google, Amazon and Apple," says a Neofonie factsheet on the device. A TechCrunch Europe story points out that the images supplied with the product's announcement yesterday (see below), include content from Berlin-based newspaper and magazine publishing giant Springer, suggesting at least one early customer. The story notes that Springer is "Europe's strongest proponent of paid content."

Neofonie WePad

Neofonie is a 12-year old software firm that also fields the WeFind search engine, and sells an e-publishing platform for PCs and mobile phones called WeMagazine. Both WeFind and WeMagazine are pre-installed on the device, as is a customizable daily newspaper based on both technologies, says the company.

The WePad is built around on a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, which would appear to make it one of the first commercial x86-based devices to run Android. The WePad offers 16GB of flash storage, expandable to 32GB, with an option to fill the standard SD card slot with an additional 32GB. The tablet provides an 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel touchscreen, along with a 1.3-megapixel webcam, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, and dual USB ports, says Neofonie.

Springer content on this display suggests WePad's first customer may be close to Neofonie's Berlin home.

The WePad provides speakers, a microphone, and audio out, as well as motion and light sensors, says Neofonie. WePad options are said to include GPS and 3G, the latter offered via a standard SIM card slot, says Neofonie.

Measuring 11.3 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches (288 x 190 x 13mm), the WePad weighs 1.76 pounds without the optional 3G card, says the company. The lithium-ion battery is claimed to last six hours.

Side view of the WePad

The WePad is described as running a "Linux derivative with Android on top," and offers access to Google's Android Marketplace, says Neofonie. A WePad AppStore will also be available to users, says the company. In addition, the device is said to support Adobe Flash and AIR technologies.

Neofonie says its device supports "all" open e-book formats, plus a premium format that will apparently be known as WeBook. More may become clear next month when the device is expected to ship, according to TechCrunch.

The WePad is claimed to offer an "open platform," but it's not entirely clear how free users are to access the web. (For example, Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader uses the Android interface only for the publisher's content.) Neofonie promises users can access "the internet, email, and social media," but the screens pictured above show only widgets, not a full web browser.

In its announcement, Neofonie compares its device directly with the Apple iPad, and claims to come out ahead with a faster processor and a larger, high resolution display. The iPad also lacks a SD card reader, USB ports, and Flash and AIR support, Neofonie adds.

A host of other Android-based e-readers with both a monochrome E Ink display and color Android screen are available, including the Nook and the Spring design Alex, which according to eWEEK, finally shipped two days ago. Meanwhile, a number of Linux- and Android-based color tablets, which are like the WePad in that they forgo the E Ink display, have been demonstrated in recent months. These include the ICD Ultra, as well as Notion Ink's Adam and HP's Slate. Others can be found in the links below.


More information on the WePad may be found in this English-language Neophonie PDF factsheet, here. Neofonie's corporate site, which is being overhauled, according to TechCrunch Europe, may be found here.

The TechCrunch Europe story, which says Neofonie will accept orders and ship WePads in May, can be found here.

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