Highlights from Japan and the CEATEC Show

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The recent Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies trade show and the streets of Akihabara, Japan, were filled with current and upcoming eye-catching technology.

Here’s a handful of the products and technologies on display at the CEATEC consumer electronics show in Tokyo and in shops in Akihabara, Tokyo’s technology center.

Sony NW-Z1000 Walkman

Highlights from Japan and the CEATEC Show
Sony’s NW-Z1000 Walkman keeps the Walkman music player tradition alive, in the Android touchscreen age. The player runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, though from what I saw, Sony has customized the interface to optimize for music playback. It's the latest in the trend toward Android app and media devices sans phone, along the lines of the iPod Touch.

The Sony Walkman player felt good in my hands, with a gorgeous 4.3-inch 480-by-800 display. Inside it has a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU, 512MB of RAM, and what Sony describes as its “S-Master MX” digital amplifier for improved audio quality. Sony claims the unit has a battery life of 20 hours for music, and five hours for video. It will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities.

It is expected to be available in December. At the IFA show in Germany, Sony said the 16GB model would sell $365 and the 32GB for $560.

Sony PlayStation Vita

Highlights from Japan and the CEATEC Show
Sony also showed off the PlayStation Vita, its upcoming handheld console that debuted at E3 this year.

The 5-inch OLED display looked gorgeous, but seeing it up-close, I found myself agreeing with PCWorld's Matt Peckham, and wondering about the long-term viability of the dedicated handheld game console. I'm sure the Vita will appeal to dedicated gamers; and I could appreciate the ease of using physical buttons, as opposed to the virtual ones I used on the Sony S tablet. But it feels as if one-trick devices have to have a really compelling distinction, especially with the popularity of Android and iOS games -- and the prevalence of those multipurpose devices.

Vita is due out in Japan in December, and coming to other markets in 2012. It’s expected to sell for $249.

Sharp Galapagos Tablet A01SH

Highlights from Japan and the CEATEC Show
While we've seen hints of Sharp doing a tablet at CES -- the company has had prototypes at the annual Las Vegas show before -- this was the first time I saw a shipping model up close.

The tablet had a pleasing curved design, but it looked fairly run-of-the-mill, and at 0.47-inch thick, it's almost chunky by today's slimline standards. It weighs 0.86 pounds, which is reasonable. The 7-inch tablet runs Android 3.2, has a 1024-by-600 pixel display and runs Nvidia's Tegra 2 with 1GB of RAM. Little about its specs otherwise jump out (beyond the fact that it has a 5-megapixel rear camera with flash, a microSD card slot and micro-HDMI port).

What struck me most about this tablet is how it's being marketed as a content device. In Japan, the tablet has access to Tsutaya’s digital content store. I doubt we'll see this tablet come stateside; none of Sharp's other tablet/e-reader efforts have hit our shores, and this one doesn't appear distinctive enough to make the leap.

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