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German WePad aims for iPad, but is it real?

German tech company shows off Android/Linux tablet and magazine publishing platform out of nowhere, and not everyone's convinced.


I've been writing quite a bit about the iPad, and that's partially because I have one and love it. But now, to take on my iPad, German company Neofonie has supposedly come up with a tablet of its own called the "WePad." Yes, we get the pun, too.

But it's not just the WePad hardware that sounds impressive (it's said to run a 1.66GHz Intel Atom processor, and have a 720p wide-screen display and a Webcam, among other things). It's also the thought that seemed to have gone into the ecosystem behind the device. It's said to run Android and Linux and have full access to the Android Marketplace, as well as a custom WePad app store.

Thing is, while the WePad is getting tons of (virtual) ink, not everyone's convinced it's real. At least one German Web site, the site for news channel N-TV, is questioning the authenticity of the device itself. How, it asks, can a small company in Germany so quickly put out a full-featured tablet when companies like Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Nokia don't have anything comparable to show off yet? Then again, a small company just came out with the CrunchPad JooJoo, so who's to say?

N-TV also points out that the prototype apparently shown off this week in Berlin didn't actually work--all it did was run a video of what the device can supposedly do.

But back to what the WePad does, if in fact it's the real deal. The people behind it say they've put together an e-publishing platform for the device (and desktops, and the Web) called WeMagazine. It's an open e-publishing platform that brings subscriptions of theoretically unlimited content to the devices. Any publisher, including small publishing houses, can upload their publications from Adobe InDesign to Neofonie's custom site and push to the publication apps.

But it's not just for the WePad. WeMagazine's creators say it'll work on desktops, the Web, and even the iPad. That would be good news for publishers. A unified platform that would take the platform guesswork out of digital publishing can only make their jobs easier.

Neofonie says it expects the device to ship in August for about $600, or $100 more than the iPad. It also apparently is working on deals with publishers to sell subsidized versions for quite a bit less.

We've contacted Neofonie for comment and will keep an eye on this one. We're not totally sold on the authenticity of this thing yet, and it could get interesting.