Sharp has been an innovator in their home nation of Japan and we finally had a chance to look at the Galapagos tablet at CES.
The Galapagos’s main function is as a reader for books, magazines, comics, newspapers, as well as video, you can browse the web, but you can't add apps like the recent Android and Apple tablets. In Japan the Galapagos tablets run on Linux, although Sharp’s representative confirmed Sharp is still talking to a range of company's in the US and wouldn't rule out an Android version.
Available in two versions: 10.8-inches and 5.5-inches, the 10.8-inch screen has a 1366x800 resolution and 16:9 aspect ration, but the main difference between them is the addition of a trackball for navigation on the 5.5-inch version.
Sharp wasn't giving much information out about the tablets, we know storage is via MicroSD, there's no camera or HDMI port.
Unlike the other tablets we’ve seen, the Galapagos doesn’t have a recognisable homescreen like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. Instead the main screen is a bookshelf, with icons for: Bookshelf, Store, Tools and Applications underneath. It supports digital subscriptions with content sent directly to your inbox.
The Galapagos tablet supports Sharp’s propriety XMDF format, which is a rival to ePub and used in Japan. Among the advantages is that when you double tap to enlarge the text size, the header of the page remains the same, so you don’t lose your position – unlike the iPad. Comics too look fantastic too and benefit from haptic feedback.
Elsewhere You can be reading a comic and at a dramatic moment the page will shake, the capability needs to be written into the code when the book is published, but certainly adds a new dimension to reading.
At the moment all content is available via in Japan via the Tsytaya Galapogas E-store, when you search for something in the store you’ll be able to view results across multiple formats, including video, books and newspapers. There’s no news on who the partner might be in the US or UK yet.
The highlight of the Galapagos is the way it interacts with other products, particulary televisions, turning it from a consumption device into a big remote control. A swipe of screen and the content transfers to a television, a swipe back and it returns to the tablet. It was quick and very simple to use.
We were also shown a concept of future ways the technology could be used. On the tablet were pages of a woman’s clothing catalogue and when flicked onto the television the static picture of a model turned into a video of the model doing a 360-degree turn. The integration of content has huge possibilities; imagine looking at a car magazine on the tablet, one flick and you could see video of the car in action.
We're really impressed by the Sharp Galapogas tablets. In hardware terms they're not particularly exciting and it's hard to comment about the software when we don't even know what OS they will be running in the UK. However the integration of content, elements like haptic feedback and the interaction with Sharp TVs is really exciting. We'll bring you more news as soon as we get it.
The Sharp Galapagos tablets are available now in Japan and the US in 2011, T3 was told that Sharp is looking to release in the UK in the second half of the year