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Sharp launching Galapagos tablets in Japan December 10

Sharp has announced it will be launching two Android-powered Galapagos ereader tablets in Japan (Japanese) on December 10, one with a 5.5-inch color touchscreen display and the other with a 10.8-inch color touchscreen display. Primarily billed as ereader and media tablets that can handle Japanese-formatted newspapers, magazines, and books with ease (thanks to support for Sharp’s XMDF format), the Galapagos tablets won’t be cheap, with starting prices at ¥39,800 and ¥54,800, respectively, or about US$475 and $650. Those price points place them well above competing Android tablets, devices like the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle, and even entry versions of Apple’s iPad.

Sharp is positioning the Galapagos tablets as media and ereading devices backed by a group of more than 20,000 Japanese publishers—that means the Galapagos ecosystem will have access to Japanese-language content that isn’t available for competing platforms like the Amazon Kindle or Apple’s own iBookstore. Sharp also expects to add music and video offerings to the Galapagos service in 2011, which will help the platform compete shoulder-to-shoulder with other devices already offering those services. However, as Android tablets, the Galapagos devices have shortcomings: users won’t be able to connect to the Android Market to download and install applications.

Sharp recently left the PC business to focus on its Galapagos offerings. Sharp says it is still considering how to launch the Galapagos tablets in international markets like the United States; however, the company is reportedly in talks to bring Galapagos-branded 3D-capable smartphones to the United States. The Galapagos tablets might be a tough sell in the United States, where publishers have already lined up with the likes of Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble in a highly competitive ereader market, and the technological advantages of Sharp’s XMDF platform may not translate to a competitive advantage.