Fusion Garage Announces Joo Joo, Tells Their Side of the Story

In what is certainly entirely expected, I was wrong about the whole CrunchPad drama. I suspected it was nothing more than a publicity stunt, but as it turns out, Fusion Garage’s side of the story confirmed that the break between them and Arrington is real. During a press conference today, Fusion Garage told their side of the story, while also officially introducing the CrunchPad Joo Joo.

Legal note

Chandrasekar “Chandra” Rathakrishnan, CEO of Fusion Garage, told his side of the story during an online press conference. He claims that Fusion Garage had already been working on the tablet device before Michael Arrington first blogged about his idea. The two parties came into contact, and Arrington promised to do marketing and promotion for Fusion Garage, and maybe later he would actually buy the company.

“Unfortunately, Michael was unable to deliver at the project’s date end, in February 2009,” Rathakrishnan said, “Pictures of a birthday cake do not mean a contract is in place. If the project was to go forward, it was up to Fusion Garage.”

“There was never any agreement of any kind between the two companies. This was nothing more than a potential acquisition that didn’t occur. Michael sat back while we took all the risk. The suggestion that Michael or TechCrunch owns anything is simply ludicrous,” he further explained, “TechCrunch didn’t contribute a single line of code. As Michael wrote in his own April 2009 blog post, ‘All credit should go to Fusion Garage’.”

I’m pretty sure we haven’t heard the last of that. Rathakrishnan denied that any lawsuit has been filed against Fusion Garage as of yet, something Arrington did state. “Despite what was written, there is no suit filed today. We own the IP and will defend it,” he said, “To emphasize: Michael did not deliver on his promises, and we have decided to move on our own.”

The Joo Joo

With all of the legal nonsense out of the way, let’s talk about the tablet Fusion Garage officially unveiled today during the press event. The CrunchPad name is obviously out, and the device has been renamed to Joo Joo. Hardware-wise, its biggest attraction is probably the 12.1″ capacitive touch screen, which is ridiculously large. It comes with a 4GB SSD, wifi (no 3G), and an accelerometer. It pumps out about 5 hours of battery life on a single charge.

The Joo Joo boots straight into a browser running on a UNIX system, and it has a boot time of about 9 seconds. There are no applications or whatever other than the browser, making it remarably similar to Chrome OS. The graphics chip inside the Joo Joo is powerful enough to do HD video. Other than the off switch, the Joo Joo has no physical buttons.

Pre-orders start at December 11, with a price tag of 499 USD. You can order them at TheJooJoo.com.

David’s Take on the Webcast

  • TechCrunch intended to acquire Fusion Garage with his CrunchPad Inc corporation, but they were never able to arrive at mutually acceptable terms. Arrington wanted a controlling interest. Fusion Garage CEO Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan’s side of the story is that most of the discussion between his company and TechCrunch was about this failed acquisition effort, implying that once the acquisition talks were off, there was no real connection between his company and TechCrunch.
  • Rathakrishnan claims that there are no contracts of any kind linking Arrington/TechCrunch and Fusion Garage, and is emphatic that Arrington has no valid IP claims. He also says that as of yet no legal action has been initiated that he knows of.
  • Rathakrishnan claims that Fusion Garage raised all the funds, did all the OS development, and interacted with the hardware partners. He downplays Arrington’s contribution and claims that there was a lot of talk and promises, but no concrete results. He says that Arrington promised to raise money and line up partners for the project, but wan’t able to come through on those promises, leaving Fusion Garage to come through with fundraising on its own.
  • Rathakrishnan displayed the device in the video conference, but it was not a very good demo. He showed it boot up in nine seconds, and showed the main desktop, with icons for various web sites. The screen looked very green, but he said later on that it was a trick of the camera, and that the screen isn’t green-tinted. He didn’t demonstrate the device loading up any web sites. It could have been total puppetware for all we know. He didn’t display any of its capabilities.
  • The big bombshell was that the ~$200 price point Arrington was aiming for was totally unrealistic, and the device, when launched, will cost $499. It will go on sale this month to be delivered in 8-10 weeks. It’s going to be called the JooJoo.
  • He was very vague about the specs. It has a 12.1″ touchscreen and five hour battery life, and has been designed to store stuff on the cloud, so it doesn’t have a lot of flash memory. He defelcted a direct question from the audience about specs, so for some reason they don’t want to talk about megahertz and megabytes.
  • He seemed very indignant about this whole imbroglio, and dismissive about TechCrunch’s contribution to it success, which is ironic because there’s no way this product would be getting so much attention had it not been for TechCrunch’s hyping it and especially the tech media’s morbid fascination with it now that there’s a big public spat. He should thank his lucky stars. As for Thom’s theory that this is all a big publicity stunt, nothing in the video conference pointed toward that, and I doubt that Rathakrishnan is a good enough actor to be able to fake the pissy mood he conveyed.


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