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A Brief Primer on the JooJoo Tablet

So: the JooJoo tablet is shipping this month, and its creators are hoping it will give the iPad a run for its money. Briefly: what is the JooJoo? Where does it come from? And does it have a shot at beating the iPad, whatever that means?

Who makes it:

  • The JooJoo is being made by Fusion Garage, the CEO of which is Chandra Rathakrishnan. The actual manufacturing comes courtesy of CSL Group, an original equipment manufacturer based in Malaysia.

Who doesn’t make it: TechCrunch

  • If you’ve even been distractedly following the tech coverage of the JooJoo, you might know that it used to be called the CrunchPad and that it was originally supposed to be a collaboration between TechCrunch — spearheaded by founder Michael Arrington — and Fusion Garage. By Arrington’s account, everything was going fine until mid-November, when “the entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication.” As you can imagine, Arrington is attributing said greed, jealousy, and miscommunication to Fusion Garage, not to his own battalions.Rathakrishnan, for his part, thereafter made the claim that Fusion Garage had been working on the tablet device well before Arrington started writing about it, that ‘Arrington promised to do marketing and promotion for Fusion Garage, and maybe later he would actually buy the company,’ and that there had never really been any formal agreement between the two parties. So: not exactly a meeting of the minds.

The CrunchPad-JooJoo lawsuit

  • As such, Michael Arrington & co. filed a federal lawsuit against Rathakrishnan & co. in early December of 2009. Fusion Garage, for its part, filed to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this month.

Now that the backstory is done with:

The JooJoo’s technical specs, and more:

  • Measurements: 7.8″ x 12.8″ x 0.2-0.7,” 2.4 lbs
  • Display: 12.1″ widescreen, multitouch, 1366 x 1768, fingerprint-resistant
  • Internet: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, up to five hours on Wi-Fi
  • 4GB solid state drive
  • Built-in battery, 5 hour battery life
  • front-facing camera; 1080p support
  • Supports Flash 10.1 and Java
  • Also, it costs $499.
  • Also, Rathakrishnan recently announced that the JooJoo will have an online app store.

The inevitable JooJoo-iPad comparison

  • As spelled out on JooJoo’s website, a lot of the stats seem to be written with the iPad in mind. Recall that the iPad doesn’t have a front-facing camera or Flash support, and that many see this as two strikes against it; the JooJoo has both of those things. The $499 price tag could just be coincidence — although according to Rathakrishnan, that price, as well as Apple’s iPad unveiling presentation, contained secret homages to Fusion Garage and the JooJoo — but the JooJoo app store seems like a clear swipe at the iPad.
  • At that, the iPad is a lighter device (1.5 lbs versus 2.4 lbs), it has a better battery life, and it does have the muscle of the Apple brand behind it — and it’s fair to assume that the iPad app store is going to be much better stocked than the JooJoo’s for the foreseeable future, if only because of iPhone app store spillover.

JooJoo: early reviews

Keep in mind that all of these reviews were from early- to mid-December, and that the JooJoo has presumably progressed since then.

“JooJoo is an interesting gadget only if you buy into the premise of a completely web-oriented lifestyle. That means using just the internet and what it offers. There’s no way to save documents locally or access .pdf files or create documents and presentations locally. You can’t play offline games, either.

JooJoo runs a custom OS created by Fusion Garage, which means it’s unlikely to have the cool apps from independent developers that made the iPhone a hit or juiced the PC ecosystem.

For now, though JooJoo seems to have the hardware design and form factor right, the list of what it can’t do outweighs what it can.”

  • CNET review: a “great device,” but not productive.

It’s not a product we’d recommend to anyone who needs their computers for productivity. It’s not a device for students, or workers, nor is it a good family room computer (the keyboard isn’t good enough). You can get a capable laptop for $500 that does much more than the JooJoo.

Despite its weird birth issues this past week with all the Arrington trouble, the JooJoo is surprisingly solid. You can tell Fusion Garage spent a good deal of time polishing the hardware, by the fact that they managed to include a 12-inch screen that’s decent enough to not have lousy viewing angles, plus support 1080p HD video playback.

So right now we’re at a wait and see status. The JooJoo seems good, from our time with it, but it really needs to be taken home and thoroughly tested with different webapps, watching a lot of HD video and streaming music. At the very least, we’ll see how much of that 5-hour battery life stands up to constant use.

So:

  • The JooJoo has more drama behind it than most pieces of consumer technology, and there’s still a lawsuit swirling about it.
  • It’s hard to say whether it’s really “better” or “worse” than the iPad until both devices come out and have been messed around with by a broad base of people, but it’s better in some respects and worse in others; the camera and Flash are two clear advantages, and the total dependence on WiFi and the app store which does not have the word “Apple” in its name are two clear disadvantages.
  • But: it’s a real device that should be taken seriously, and it ships soon. It’s currently available for preorder on theJooJoo.com; everything that you’ve read up to this point should guide whether or not you think that’s a good idea.

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