Fusion Garage announces JooJoo cloud tablet; swipes at TechCrunch

In a webcast, Fusion Garage founder and CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan announced the JooJoo, a cloud-based, 12.1-inch tablet device that will retail for $499.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Fusion Garagefounder and CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan announced on Monday the JooJoo, a cloud-based, 12.1-inch tablet device that will retail for $499.

"This product is the first of its kind to boot within 9 seconds," Rathakrishnan said. "It's truly what comes closest to instant-on."

The device is the phoenix that rises from the ashes of a fallen CrunchPad, the tablet device that the company originally intended to develop with popular technology blog TechCrunch.

In a webcast, Rathakrishnan sought to refute the claims of TechCrunch head Michael Arrington that the partnership imploded because Fusion Garage tried to cut TechCrunch out of its own namesake device. Instead, he stressed that all hardware and software development of the device was done by Fusion Garage on its own dime.

"It offends me greatly that an incomplete...story has been presented," he said. "Anybody can write blog posts."

JooJoo, named for an African term that means "magical," Rathakrishnan said, is a tablet computing device that doesn't have a proper operating system but instead an OS that loads directly into a browser, much like Google's Chrome OS.

"It boots in nine seconds," he said. "The Internet is the application of the device."

The capacitive touchscreen device does not have any physical buttons besides a power button. Rathakrishnan said the device can play full HD videos and serve as an e-book reader.

The JooJoo will retail for $499 and will be available on Fri., Dec. 11 from the company's website, TheJooJoo.com. It will ship in eight to 10 weeks.

Rathakrishnan took a swipe at Arrington's promise of a lower price -- such as $200 or $300 -- saying that "Nothing worthwhile can be offered at that price" based on the market, comparing it to a $199 Apple iPhone with contract, a netbook and the $489 Kindle DX e-book reader.

"I challenge you to find a product of this caliber and features for less," he said.

As for ownership of the device, Rathakrishnan said TechCrunch had no legal claim to any aspect of it.

"There are no contracts of any kind between Fusion Garage and TechCrunch or any of their related subsidies," he said. "We own the IP and we will defend it."

Rathakrishnan said no lawsuit had been filed by either company.

"Michael made many promises...none of which came true," he said. "We had to move on."

Responding to a question, Rathakrishnan acknowledged the similarities between the device and Google's Chrome OS, but said Chrome development focused on the netbook, not the cloud-based tablet.

"Google Chrome has a similar vision," he said, "But we believe the netbook form factor isn't quite [appropriate]."

Rathakrishnan said the device has a local cache -- a 4GB solid-state drive -- to allow for offline e-mail review that synchronizes with a Wi-Fi Internet connection present.

The device does not support mobile SIM cards, he said.

"There's enough space on this device to do the relevant caching to have offline capability."

Rathakrishnan said the battery can last "five hours, on the go, without a charge."

He said Fusion Garage was in discussions with publishing partners, and that accessories would come soon.

The JooJoo will come in just one color, black.

"We think there will be a lot of demand for this product and we will be ramping up [production] as a result of that," he said.

In his demonstration, the device's scrolling appeared quite laggy. The interface used large, touch-friendly icons as bookmarks for favorite sites.

Responding to questions about the ability of his company to properly market the device, Rathakrishnan said that TechCrunch's contribution to publicize the device is far less important than it seems.

"[Arrington] is writing about a vision on a blog post," he said. "We can take this to market without TechCrunch's marketing capabilities."

Rathakrishnan said Arrington originally proposed a deal in which TechCrunch would acquire Fusion Garage so it would have a controlling stake in the device. He said there were discussions about the deal but nothing materialized.

"This was nothing more than a potential acquisition that didn't occur," he said.

Rathakrishnan blamed Arrington for stalling the project, which had ground to a halt at the second prototype.

"Fusion Garage alone owns all IP and associated rights to [the CrunchPad]," he said. "TechCrunch didn't contribute a single line of code."

With talks between his company and TechCrunch now at a standstill, the device is now Fusion Garage's to market, Rathakrishnan said.

"Bringing the product to market is what we are doing today," he said.

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