A Galapagos cloud-based ebook store will launch in Japan this year. It will be supported by two Galapagos tablets, which have been designed specifically as ebook readers but will also include a browser and built-in social-network software for sharing notes and lists based around your reading.
A 5.5-inch version with a 1,024x600-pixel screen will come in red or silver, and will include a physical trackball. A 10.8-inch, black model will sport a 1,366x800-pixel screen. Both pack 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.
It seems an odd decision to make the devices so ebook-focused, especially since they have an LCD, instead of E Ink, display. E Ink is much easier on the eyes over long periods.
Sharp chose the Galapagos name because of its connotation with evolution, although the word has also come to refer to systems that have evolved in isolation -- does this mean we won't see the tablets outside of Japan? We've contacted Sharp but there's no information yet about the service coming to Europe or the US.
The Galapagos store will offer features like automatically delivering new copies of magazines and newspapers, as well as free trials of recommended ebooks. The service will offer around 30,000 newspapers, magazines and books when it launches in December 2010.