Sharp will stick with tablets, reveals new 7-inch model

The Osaka-based electronics company says it will continue to update its Galapagos tablet line despite shakey start

Sharp said Wednesday it has no plans to abandon its Galapagos tablet line and announced a 7-inch model that can serve as a WiMAX router.

The company launched three tablets in December last year and said it hoped to compete with Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle in Japan. It then dropped two of the models just nine months later without replacements, leading local media and analysts to speculate it would soon leave the field entirely.

But Sharp's Masami Obatake, a general manager in one of its consumer product divisions, told reporters in Tokyo that the company will continue to bring out new products.

"We're not withdrawing from the Galapagos business, we're still continuing with development," he said.

Obatake spoke at the launch event for the company's new 7-inch tablet, which hooks into a domestic WiMAX network and can tether up to seven devices. The Japanese version of the high-speed wireless technology is run by local operator UQ and has peak download speeds of 40 Mbps, with uploads at 10 Mbps.

The new Galapagos tablet, which will go on sale Dec. 17 in Japan, also has a dual-core Nvidia CPU, front and rear cameras, and 16 GB of RAM. It weighs about 400 grams (14 ounces) and comes with Android 3.2 installed.

When Sharp first announced its tablets last year, it plugged them as advanced e-readers, limited to the company's e-book software with some audio and video support. But it is calling the latest product a "media tablet" and including standard tablet applications such as the Android Market, YouTube and Gmail.

Galapagos is a term that has been used to describe Japan's mobile industry, which develops advanced devices that have little success outside the mainland. Sharp's tablet line is currently on sale only in Japan, and the company did not announce a retail price.

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