Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:01

Tech Week #11

Written by  Andreas Ødegård
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Tech Week

Tech Week 11: Gimme back my tablet!

Today’s news story started a long time ago, in a galaxy far…wait, no it didn’t. It started a couple of years ago when Michael Arrington, founder of the TechCrunch technology blog started a venture to create a web tablet designed for surfing on the couch. The idea was that no device on the market was suitable for casual browsing; reading blogs, online newspapers, watch YouTube etc. Sure you had tablet PCs if you were willing to spend £1000 on something like that, and smaller devices like an iPod touch could do in a (tech)crunch, but nothing that had the screen size and resolution of a laptop yet was designed for consuming content. The idea of the CrunchPad was formed, and for several years we heard little to nothing about the development of the device. A blog owner venturing into technology is after all not something many people would do, and the price that was hinted at- under $300 was also a bit optimistic said some.

Earlier this year it became clear that the CruchPad wasn’t dead. Arrington had allied with a small company called Fusion Garage and was still planningon releasing the CrunchPad; a 12” tablet with a capacitive touch screen. Everything was set for the launch, and then the mess started.

The story from this point on is not fully known. Allegedly, the Fusion Garage CEO Chanda Rathakrishnan emailed Arrington telling him they would go on with the project themselves. Fusion Garage claimed the only thing Arrington owned was the CrunchPad name, and so they renamed the device the JooJoo. Arrington responded on Friday by suing Fusion Garage for a lot of things from fraud to false advertisement. Arrington’s story can be read here while Engadget has a surprisingly (considering it’s Engadget) objective overview here. Which side of the story that is correct is unsure, but I doubt Arrington nor Fusion Garage is telling the whole truth.

As it stands now, the JooJoo is still on pre-order for the horribly high price of $500- $200 more than the initial target cost, but with the lawsuit in motion it’s unsure if there will ever be any units sent out. I’m not sure who would buy a device that expensive from a company who in any case doesn’t have everything sorted properly internally, let alone if anyone would take Fusion Garage’s side in this. I’m guessing that a lot of the target users of a device like this (seeing it’s sold only online) would be people who know the story behind it and would support Arrington out of principle- right or not, he’s the one who has a name for himself in the tech industry, not Mr.…Rathatasomething. Personally, being a blogger, I’m taking Arrington side for the simple fact that whatever the reason is for the falling out, stealing someone’s idea and doing whatever the hell you want with it is not OK. By that I mean the fact that a month ago no-one knew anything about a JooJoo pad at all, and Fusion Garage and TechCrunch were set to release the device under the CrunchPad name. Fusion Garage registered while they were still on track to release the device as the CrunchPad, so obviously there was some backstabbing involved regardless of the reasons.

As for the device itself, it’s a neat idea- but I doubt it will sell much even if they somehow became friends again and got all bad mojo out of the way. $500 will buy you an Asus EEE T91MT, a convertible 9” tablet running Windows 7, or an Archos 9 9” dedicated tablet also running Windows 7. Competing with those devices by releasing a device that uses a proprietary OS will be hard, although the capacitive touch screen is very nice. I think there’s definitely room for such a device on the market as it does fill a hole that I myself know for sure is there, but if $500 is the price to do it at I doubt.


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