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Galapagos tablets to launch with multimedia e-reader service

Sep 27, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Sharp announced two color e-reader tablets set to ship in December, along with an electronic bookstore that will offer 30,000 books and periodicals with automated scheduled delivery services. The “Galapagos” is available in 10.8-inch and 5.5-inch versions, offers 802/11b/g Wi-Fi connections, and according to one report, runs Android.

Sharp tipped the new tablets in July, stating that it planned to introduce two e-reader tablets in Japan by the end of the year. Now the tablets have been formally announced with a "Galapagos" brand name and some more details.

Sharp Galapagos in 5.5-inch (left) and 10.8-inch versions

The company confirmed its earlier announcement that the devices will run a new multimedia version of its decade-old, Japan-oriented XMDF (ever-eXtending Mobile Document Format) publishing format. According to an IDG News Service report, however, Sharp has ambitions beyond Japan, with plans to sell a million units around the world in the first year. The company is in talks with Verizon Wireless to carry the e-reader tablets in the U.S in 2011, says the story.

Sharp has built the Galapagos on an Android platform, says the story, although Sharp makes no mention of this. In any case, Android Market access is not likely to be part of the picture.

"The devices come with some Android apps already installed, but users might not be able to download additional apps," writes Martyn Williams on IDGNews.

10.8-inch version of Sharp Galapagos, showing off XMDF page-turning feature

The Galapagos tablets offer high resolutions considering their screen sizes, especially for the smaller model. The larger 10.8-inch Galapagos tablet offers 1366 x 800 pixel resolution, while the 5.5-inch model provides an impressive 1024 x 600, says Sharp.

Both devices are equipped with 802/11b/g Wi-Fi and a trackball, says Sharp According to IDGNews, a 3G option will not be available in the first generation. Software features include a web browser, XMDF, SMS messaging, and social networking support, says Sharp.

XMDF-based ebook service offers automated deliveries

Sharp's upcoming ebook service will launch in December with some 30,000 book, newspaper, and magazine titles, says the company. The service is based on a "next-generation XMDF" standard that will extend and optimize the company's XMDF publishing standard for tablets, says the company.

The new XMDF version adds support for video and audio in addition to current features such as text and still images, says the company. Like the existing XMDF, the format is optimized for Japanese typographic expressions such as vertical writing. Next-generation XMDF is said to allow automatic adjustment of multimedia layouts, and enables users to browse the same content on multiple terminals, including smartphones, PCs, and TVs.

Sharp will offer production tools, as well as a distribution system for the format, targeting online newspaper, magazine, and catalog publishers, says the company.

Ebook service features available to Galapagos users include an automatic scheduled delivery service, says Sharp. For periodicals, including newspapers and magazines, customers can sign up for a delivery service that uploads new editions at a pre-arranged time. Users can categorize content as unread/recommended, most recently read, favorite, and scheduled delivery.

The service also offers periodic software updates, enabling the tablet to "evolve," according to Sharp, by way of explaining the "Galapagos" brand name. The term "Galapagos" is often used in the Japanese business world to refer to products or technologies that have evolved differently in Japan from the rest of the world, just as the Galapagos Islands' isolation led to the extreme diversity of evolved species, says IDGNews.

Unfortunately for Sharp, the term has a largely negative connotation, referring to products such as pioneering smartphones that failed to take off elsewhere due to Japanese-specific features and formats.

"For the domestic market, perhaps Sharp's biggest challenge lies in changing the perception of the word it's chosen as the brand name for the products: Galapagos," writes Williams.

The XMDF focus will do little to lessen the double entendre. Still, writes Williams, Sharp says it will later add support for the ePub format, HTML, and PDF, presumably when it ports the tablets overseas.


The Sharp Galapagos tablets will ship in December in Japan, says Sharp, which did not reveal pricing. The Galapagos announcement may be found here, with more photos and details may be found on the Japanese language Galapagos site, here.

The IDGNews story on the Galapagos tablets may be found here.

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