September 15, 2011 12:28 pm

Sharp drops tablet after less than a year

Sharp, the Japanese electronics maker, on Thursday said it would stop selling its Galapagos tablet computer less than a year after launching it. The device failed to gain traction in a market dominated by Apple’s iPad.

The decision highlights Apple’s stranglehold on the fast-growing segment, where global sales volume grew fourfold in the second quarter to 13.6m units, according to the market research firm IDC. Seven out of 10 tablets sold were iPads, according to IDC.

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Sharp, a big supplier of touchscreen liquid crystal displays for other manufacturers’ tablets, had high hopes for its device when it launched it last December.

Executives talked of selling 1m units in the first year but shipments reached only a couple of hundred thousand, according to analysts. Sharp did not disclose sales figures.

Sharp is the second electronics maker to admit defeat in the tablet wars in recent weeks. Hewlett-Packard said last month it would discontinue its TouchPad tablet. HP slashed the price of machines left in stock by 80 per cent, to $100.

Sharp had raised an extra hurdle for itself by giving the Galapagos its own dedicated operating system, a move that deterred outside software developers from creating applications for the device.

The most successful rivals to the iPad – notably the Samsung Galaxy – use Google’s Android operating system, which has been adopted for tablets and smartphones by many manufacturers.

Sharp offered two standard retail versions of the Galapagos, with 5.5 inch and 10.8 inch screens. It said both would be discontinued at the end of this month.

It will keep producing a 7 inch version, which it sells though eAccess, a small Japanese mobile phone operator, though the death of the other two models could have an effect on demand for that model.

The failure of two rivals to the iPad in two months could give pause to other companies with plans to challenge Apple.

Sony plans to unveil its tablet this week and Amazon, playing off the success of its more specialised Kindle e-book reader, is believed to be working on a tablet of its own.

Many observers in Japan thought the Galapagos was cursed from the start because of its name. It is used to describe Japanese technologies that travel poorly outside the country, because they have been tailored too narrowly to local tastes or design specifications.

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