Ahead of Apple event, Sharp reveals 7-inch tablet with IGZO display

Apple's rumored iPad mini has been linked with Sharp's IGZO screen technology, which extends battery life

Japan's Sharp said Wednesday it will soon launch a small 7-inch tablet with its new IGZO displays, a week ahead of an Apple press event that is widely expected to reveal a mini tablet also linked to the new power-saving technology.

Sharp's new Aquos Pad, to go on sale in early December in Japan through local carrier au, has a 1280 x 800 IGZO display and other technologies that the company says allow its 2,040mAh battery to last 2.5 times as long as existing tablets. The company didn't specify details, but currently sells a separate 7-inch tablet with a traditional LCD screen that can play video for six hours on a single charge.

IGZO, named after the indium gallium zinc oxide semiconductor on which it is based, is a new display technology from Sharp that can make smaller pixels than current screens, drawing less power and providing more touch accuracy. Sharp is a supplier for Apple and the screen technology has been linked to Apple's rumored 7-inch iPad mini, widely expected to be unveiled at a press event set for Tuesday.

At Ceatec, a major Japanese electronics show held earlier this month, Sharp showed IGZO tablet displays in 7-inch, 10-inch, and 13-inch sizes, and said it was producing them for at least one customer, which it declined to name. The company has already announced Sharp smartphones that will use the screens, which can last two days on a single charge.

The latest Aquos Pad was announced Wednesday as part of au's winter lineup of mobile products for its network. Au, which began carrying Apple's iPhone last year, has been pegged in the Japanese press as negotiating with Apple to become the exclusive carrier for the iPad mini when it is launched, which would put it in competition with Sharp's new tablet.

Sharp's Aquos Pad will run on au's LTE network and feature a touch stylus, and is built to be water and shock resistant. The device will weigh 280 grams and feature the company's "Feel UX" user interface, which it built together with software firm Frog Design, headquartered in San Francisco.

At a press conference in Tokyo Wednesday, Takashi Tanaka, the president of KDDI, the parent company of mobile operator au, gave no hint of any upcoming release of a new iPad on his network. He focused on the rollout of the company's high-speed LTE service and its success in launching the iPhone 5.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service

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