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News  11, Nov 2010

The Joojoo is dead, but Fusion Garage plans new products

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Fusion Garage told us yesterday that its Joojoo tablet is at “its end of life” and that it is working on several new devices to be released next year. The new devices will have new hardware and will run on a new Android-based operating system developed by Fusion Garage.

“With the new platform, the current Joojoo will be at its end of life. What we mean by that is we will not have backward compatability. [The new devices] will only be supported with new hardware moving forward, the hardware architecture is completely different. And as we said we’re going to have multiple devices,” Fusion Garage founder Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan said.

The Joojoo, of course, is the device that Fusion Garage was supposed to have developed with TechCrunch. TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington has filed suit against Fusion Garage, and legal proceedings are ongoing. A preliminary hearing in August, however, struck out most of TechCrunch’s claims — here’s a good backgrounder.

Chandra said that the Joojoo, a tablet designed to run only web applications, had failed to meet the company’s sales targets since it was launched last Dec because the market didn’t want a web-only platform.

“I think it’s very obvious with the advance of the iPad that while web remains probably the number one thing that we do with our devices, the lack of end-to-end connectivity means that there’s a need to have a hybrid, to have both a web and non-web experience. And that’s where we fell short with our product,” he said.

But Chandra refused to be drawn on the number of Joojoos sold so far. He would only say that while its launch in US “didn’t get a great reception”, its Europe and Asia launches fared better. He also made a dig at critics who speculated the Joojoo wouldn’t sell in significant numbers.

“We have not done as well as projected as far as the numbers are concerned, but it is certainly not what you have read on the internet,” he said.

Chandra said transportation companies, hospitals and advertising agencies were interested in a customized version of the Joojoo. He said Fusion Garage would adapt the Joojoo’s hardware and software for specialized use by these companies. These customized devices would not carry the Joojoo brand. However, Fusion Garage will continue to support existing Joojoo owners.

Despite the Joojoo’s poor sales, Chandra said he has raised US$5 million in new funds, taking total funding to more than US$8 million. He would only say that the funds came from “Asian investors” from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Fusion Garage’s earlier investors include Malaysian handset-maker CSL Group and Singaporean angel investor, Bruce Lee.

Fusion Garage has increased its headcount from 14 employees to 40, and opened development offices in Nanjing, China and Bangalore, India. It moved into a new 700 sq. meter office in a light industrial area two months ago with plenty of space to spare. When I was there, Chandra showed me part of his product design team, gesturing at about five people working on Macs, in one corner of the room. Four clusters of about four people each worked on software in another part of the room. A large glass-walled conference room, where we did our interview, and two smaller meeting rooms made up the rest of the office.

Fusion Garage certainly seems to be gearing up for a busy 2011. Chandra said Fusion Garage is developing multiple devices running its new Android-based operating system, with a release expected in the first half of next year. He refused to say what form factor the devices would use, or whether they would be handsets or tablets. He said, however, that all the devices would have 3G and that they would “talk” to each other in a unique way. The new devices would be sold through big-box retailers and telcos worldwide, unlike the Joojoo, which was only sold through the Fusion Garage website.

Below are some images of the Fusion Garage office
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Wong Joon Ian

Wong Joon Ian

twitter.com/joonian

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