Sharp’s Galapagos tablets will have to adapt to survive the U.S.

Sharp’s Galapagos tablet may fall prey to Darwinian laws, if Sharp can’t shape it up in time for its stateside introduction.

Sharp will tell you the name for its latest Galapagos tablets comes from the Pacific isles of the same name, where Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest was forged: Organisms must adapt or die. It’s fitting, but probably not in the way the company imagined. Sharp’s Galapagos will have to morph into something almost unrecognizable from its current self to survive its transition to the United States in 2011 – especially in forest chirping with competitors ready to chomp the heads right off competitors.

Sharp Galapagos 1The 5.5- and 10.8-inch tablets arrived in Japan just recently boasting a variety of distinct features. They use 16:9 aspect ratios in the screen, rather the the iPad-style 4:3. They run Linux instead of Android. They’re tuned to Sharp’s own XMDF file format, rather than ePub or other standard formats. And they don’t have 3G, just Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, none of these traits seem particularly suited to surviving the harsh market for tablets that don’t have an Apple stamped on the back in the United States. The 16:9 aspect ratio has been tailored to paperbacks, but doesn’t fit well for magazines, which its color screen would seem to favor. The flavor of Linux installed isn’t standard, doesn’t have basic features like a Web browser, and crawls along at, appropriately enough, a tortoise’s pace. Pages literally take seconds to flip after dragging a finger across them. It has Sharp’s own e-book store, but no access to well-recognized U.S. giants like Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

The glimmer of hope for the fledgling species known as the Galapagos seems to be in the fact that just about nothing about these tablets has been finalized yet, short of the fact that they’re coming. At the end of Sharp’s press conference, Sharp execs refused to confirm the screen sizes, the operating system (it could still be Android), whether it would land 3G, and of course, the price.

May the best tablet win.

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