$265 Spark Linux-based tablet shipping in May (pre-order in Feb)

The Spark is a 7 inch tablet with an open source Linux-based operating system and an open platform for apps, eBooks, and other digital content. One of the developers of the Spark project introduced the tablet last week, and now he’s posted a Q&A with far more details — including launch details.

Zenithink C71

Pre-orders for the Spark tablet will start next week, and the tablet is expected to ship in May. The team will ship the tablet from Europe initially, but orders will be open to anyone anywhere in the globe. The idea is to also find retail partners in the US and other regions.

The Spark tablet will run Mer, the community-based version of MeeGo Linux with the KDE Plasma Active software environment. The software will all be open source and the idea is to release a tablet that’s as open as possible.

The bootloader won’t be locked, so if you want to change or modify the operating system or kernel, you can.

Even the content store will be based on an open platform — allowing people to create their own content stores which will tap into the books, apps, or other content stored on the server for the Spark store. For instance, a school district could create their own custom “store” that would only contain the books recommended for students.

Here’s a run down of the tablet’s hardware specifications:

  • 1 GHz AMLogic ARM Cortex-A9 CPU
  • Mali 400 graphics
  • 7 inch, 800 x 480 pixel capacitive multitouch display
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of storage
  • 802.11b/g WiFi
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • 2 USB ports
  • microSD card slot
  • 3.5mm audio jack

The Spark tablet is basically a rebranded version of the Chinese Zenithink C71 tablet.

At launch the tablet will be WiFi-only, but eventually the team hopes to offer 3G and GPS models.

There’s currently no plan to include software that would let users run Android apps on the Spark (unless you replace Mer with Android), but developer Aaron Seigo suggests that is should be possible to install a Dalvik runtime which would make it possible — much the same way you can already run Android apps on the WePad MeeGo tablet or the Blackberry PlayBook with OS 2.0.

If you don’t want to wait until May to try out the software, the Palsma Active and Mer software is already capable of running on tablets with Intel x86 or NVIDIA Tegra 2 ARM-based chips.

Plasma Active overview:

  • http://identi.ca/ddevine Daniel Devine

    If it had some sort of keyboard dock I’d be all over it.

  • Anonymous

    A little disappointing that it doesn’t have the 1024×600 resolution of the Nook and Kindle tablets.

  • EKM

    The tablet is currently available at http://www.aliexpress.com with android 2.3. Its called zenithink ZT280 C71, I have had mine since december. It costs slightly over $100 per unit. On http://www.zenithink.com they now have C72 with higher resolution.