You may have noticed a viral online campaign from a secret entity known as TabCo that promised to bring a tablet that was revolutionary. Recently it began circulating that TabCo was in fact Nokia or another big player prepared to sweep us all off our feet with this innovative tablet. Today was the much anticipated launch, although TabCo blew the secrecy by inadvertently tweeting out that it was the Grid 10 tablet from Fusion Garage. That tweet was quickly deleted but was confirmed with the official launch of both the Grid 10 tablet and the Grid 4 phone by Fusion Garage.
You may find the Fusion Garage name familiar and wonder why the company kept its involvement under wraps. That's due to the checkered past of Fusion Garage. This is the company that partnered with TechCrunch's Mike Arrington on the CrunchPad, only to pull out at the eleventh hour and launch the oddly-named JooJoo on its own. That tablet failed miserably in the market with the company having trouble delivering units to customers who prepaid for the tablet, and reports that only a few were actually sold.
Today's launch event by Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishna was bizarre, with time spent up front asking everyone to not judge the company by its past actions. This was stated more than once and given as the reason for the secret viral campaign. It doesn't instill a lot of trust when the company admits it has to sneak back into the market given its failures in the past.
Two products were shown at the launch event, the Grid 10 tablet and the Grid 4 smartphone. Both are built on the "Android kernel" but are running Fusion Garage's Grid OS on top of it. It was stated that the Grid OS is not just a skin on top of Android, but a complete UI. The brief demonstration on the 10-inch screen looked slick, with screen positioning done through grids for object placement (like icons). Groups of icons can be positioned in "clusters" for personal preference.
The Grid 4 smartphone is a typical touch phone that is running the Grid OS on the Android kernel. The four-inch display is run by a Snapdragon processor and according to Fusion Garage (like the tablet) runs Android apps, although it was clear the Android Market would not be accessible. It was stated repeatedly that the tablet and phone would use third party app stores, including the company's new store launching soon and the Amazon Appstore.
No apps were demonstrated on either the tablet nor the phone at the launch event, so it is not clear what Android apps might actually run or how well. The demonstration was limited to showing UI interaction which looked smooth, and few applications were shown.
The Grid 10 tablet pricing was listed as $499 and $599 for Wi-Fi only and 3G enabled respectively. The company has opened preorders up on its site with shipment of the tablet scheduled to begin on Sept. 15. The Grid 4 phone pricing is $399 unlocked with no preorders available yet on the company web site. The Grid 10 will be carried by Amazon according to Fusion Garage.