Fusion Garage: Market Big Enough for iPad and Joo Joo

Finally something we can work with. While both the iPad and the Joo Joo are technically still vapourware, people have at least had the opportunity to play with the former, while the latter remained somewhat illusive. Now that the device has been set to ship at the end of this month, Ars Technica finally had some time to play with the Joo Joo and talk to Fusion Garage’s CEO, Chandra Rathakrishnan. There’s good news, and there’s (potentially) bad news.

Since I’m in a good mood (because I’m in my second Mass Effect 2 playthrough as one of the harder classes [Adept], on the hardcore difficulty setting, and I’m doing all right), let’s start with the unicorn good news first. Ars Technica was invited to Fusion Garage’s office in Singapore, and while there, had a chance to play with the Joo Joo.

The good news is that the Joo Joo has a Human Interface Device (HID) driver built-in, so that you can use the USB port to plug in any keyboard or mouse. Ars’ Paul Mah tested it with a wireless Microsoft mouse, and lo and behold, it worked just fine. The Joo Joo has an interface designed entirely around multitouch, but the prospect of being able to use a mouse and keyboard too is a nice one to have when you’re at home – and it doesn’t need to be an expensive branded one. There’s a stand, too.

The bad news is that Mah did not get to see the final version of the software running on the Joo Joo. Anyone with a bit of experience in this field knows that having good hardware alone gets you nowhere – it’s the software that really makes or breaks a device like this. Rathakrishnan said the software is about 90% complete, and with devices supposed to ship at the end of this month, they’re cutting it close.

Then again, the histories of great companies is laden with stories of barely-made deadlines – the first Amiga, the original Macintosh, the BeBox.

Inevitably, the Joo Joo has to be compared to the iPad, but Rathakrishnan is convinced there’s place for both on the market. The CEO is apparently quite proud of the Joo Joo’s design, and looking at the pictures of it, it’s hard to disagree with him – for a start-up, it looks surprisingly well-made.

“We have managed to pack in more hardware profiles than the iPad without compromising on sleekness [of the JooJoo],” Rathakrishnan told Ars. The device is about as thick as the iPad, while still sporting a larger screen (9.7″ vs. 12.1″) with a higher resolution (1024×768 vs. 1366×768) that’s still a capacitive touch screen. It only has WiFi, but Fusion Garage is not opposed to releasing models with 3G built-in in the future. It has a webcam too, which the iPad doesn’t (yet) have.

It’s difficult to say if the Joo Joo stands a chance here. Despite all the tablet hype, it’s still a market that does not yet exist, and none of us have any idea whether or not people will actually buy these things. I’m still sceptical, but if I had to choose between the two, the Joo Joo would win it hands-down, but only under one condition: the hardware has to be accessible by others, too. I need to be able to fiddle with the Linux system, and I need to be able to add functionality to it. I’m sure the same applies to many OSNews readers.

If that’s not possible, than the device is just as limited and constrained as the iPad. In which case, I won’t bother with either of them.


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