By >Akihabara News Team
Sharp Introduces Galapagos E-Book Readers and Platform
On the back of a July 20 press conference is Sharp reintroducing two new e-book readers at a press conference in Shiba, Tokyo, today.
To be put in stores in December, these e-book readers will come in two sizes: a 5.5-inch 1024×600 resolution model in red and silver, termed the “Mobile Type”, with a trackball for single-handed ease of use in crowded conditions, such as rush hour train commutes; and a 10.8-inch 1366×800 resolution model in black, called the “Home Type”. Both models will come with a 802.11b/g antenna, but so far, Sharp are not forthcoming with more details; we will know more once we get a sample to test.
Announced alongside these devices is a new cloud-based e-book platform and store, on which Sharp is currently in talks with publishers and newspaper companies to offer approximately 30,000 publications, including Asahi Shimbun, Nikkan Sports, Newsweek Japan, and Shogakukan. Sharp hopes to expand the selection of media to movies, games and even textbooks later in the platform’s life cycle. Periodical media, like books and magazines, will be delivered to users’ devices automatically in several formats like HTML, PDF, ePUB, and Sharp’s own XMDF e-book format; and the devices will be able to grow and evolve by means of software updates. Also featured is a Concierge that will offer interesting books, “like the staff in a bookstore.”
The software for the e-book readers will be a heavily-modified Android, and will include a web browser and “pre-installed social network application”, but won’t offer access to the Android Market because of technical issues such as the large-resolution screen. Instead, Sharp will introduce its own rich line of applications, which will be available via the software updates.
Perhaps most interesting at this press conference was the name of the platform and devices. The word “Galapagos”, in terms of the Japanese technology scene, refers to the evolution of a product or industry in an isolated manner from the rest of the world – a prime example being the cell phone industry in Japan, populated with complex handsets that wouldn’t survive overseas and a communications standard incompatible with technology from similar markets in other countries. Sharp’s selection of the word as the name of its new venture can be taken as a challenge to the negative image of the word, instead asking consumers to draw parallels with Charles Darwin and his famous quote:
“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”
Pricing schemes for the devices and e-books were not announced, but Sharp told us to expect similar prices to devices and services already on the market.
In a market already seeing promises of saturation from alliances among top content, communications, and electronics companies in the country, it would be interesting to see how Sharp’s new platform will turn out a year, two years, ten years down the road.