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CES: Sharp Galapagos coming to America in 2011

Sharp is bringing its Galapagos tablet to the U.S. in 2011--but the American version may bear little resemblance to its Japanese predecessor.

Sharp Galapagos
An early look at the Sharp Galapagos Sharp

LAS VEGAS--Like seemingly every other company at CES 2011, Sharp is jumping on the tablet/e-reader bandwagon. But at least the company has one of the more unique names out there: Galapagos.

If the name sounds familiar (in the electronics arena, that is), it's because it's not exactly a new product. The Galapagos is already available in Japan, and it's been spotted making its way through the FCC approval process in the U.S.

But one thing is clear: the North American version of the Galapagos may bear very little resemblance to the existing Japanese one. For instance: the Japanese version runs a customized Linux OS, but Sharp wouldn't even confirm the OS or CPU that the Americanized Galapagos would sport--perhaps leaving the door open to (yet another) Android entry. Likewise, while the Japanese models are available in 5.5-inch and 10.8-inch screen sizes, Sharp wouldn't even commit to a final screen size (or sizes) for the U.S. version. Will it have Wi-Fi or cellular wireless, or both? Sharp wouldn't say.

Sharp Galapagos
John P. Falcone/CNET

Here's what Sharp would confirm about the upcoming Galapagos:

  • Whatever the final size, the screen will have a wide, 16:9 aspect ratio (as opposed to the more square-ish screens found on many e-book readers and tablets, including the 4:3 iPad).
  • The Galapagos "will offer consumers wide access to e-books, movies, games, and music" via a Sharp-specific app and content store. Magazines and newspapers will be available via an "Automated Scheduled Delivery Service" (similar to periodical delivery on the Kindle).
  • Storage is handled via a MicroSD card (presumably included).
  • In addition to ePUB, the Galapagos will use the XMDF (ever-eXtending Mobile Document Format) file format already utilized in its Japanese model for documents. Sharp says this format offers better reflow and reformatting options on various screen sizes. (No word on support for PDF.)
  • The Galapagos will support Web browsing and e-mail. Home control (using it as a giant remote) is also on the road map.

Naturally, with such thin details on the product itself, pricing wasn't even hinted at. However, Sharp said it expects the U.S. Galapagos to launch in the second half of 2011.