Fusion Garage Strikes Back: From CrunchPad to JooJoo
December 8, 2009 by Bernard Leong
The very public fallout between US-based TechCrunch and Singapore-based Fusion Garage was publicised, analysed and critiqued to no end, but was just based solely on the TechCrunch side of things. Last Monday, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch made the declaration of the end of CrunchPad and claimed that they will file a litigation against Fusion Garage. Within the tech community across the world, we were left wondering what had happened and have been waiting to hear Fusion Garage’s side of the story. The long awaited media event from Fusion Garage finally happened about an hour ago as the CEO Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, took the stage through a live streaming video conference and conveyed three main points: (1) the fallout with TechCrunch and reply to Mike Arrington’s claims, (2) a demo of JooJoo (it’s no longer called CrunchPad) and (3) the product specs and pricing of JooJoo. We offer a narrative account on what transpired during the live-tweeting that went along with the video conference from Chandra.
Here are the points summarized from Chandra’s video conference, followed by a planned Q&A session with someone asking him questions in the background. First of all, an overall comment on Chandra’s performance: he did stick to the talking points given to him and probably did not reveal a lot of information as to who has invested in Fusion Garage. Kudos to San Jose-based McGrath/Power Public Relations who have done a good job to prepare him for this video conference.
The Start Of The Affair
Back in early 2008, Fusion Garage had already started working on some bits of the software development for a browser-based operating system (OS) and on reading one of Michael’s blog posts, Chandra came to realise of the shared vision between Michael and himself.
At TechCrunch50 in September 2008, Chandra introduced himself to Michael and that was when the mutual courting started and the affair developed.
Refuting Mike Arrington’s Claims And Debate Over IP Rights
According to Chandra, there are no contracts signed between both parties and there have been only verbal discussions on the product. The IP is owned by Fusion Garage alone, both the OS that powers the device and the hardware and Chandra claimed that neither Mike Arrington nor TechCrunch has contributed anything to the device. So far, we know that TechCrunch only owns the trademark “CrunchPad” and that it was only filed recently.
“TechCrunch did not contribute a single line of code.” – Chandra, CEO of Fusion Garage
Chandra claims that Michael offered to bring in investors but with a much bigger goal in mind, to structure a path towards acquiring Fusion Garage one day, with Michael himself having a controlling interest. But that Michael had failed to follow through on his promise and did not get any investments by the prototype B stage. So, Fusion Garage had to go on its own and complete the product.
Perhaps the quote of the day from Chandra:
“Unfortunately, Michael was unable to deliver at the project’s date end, in February 2009… pictures of a birthday cake do not mean a contract is in place. If the project was to go forward, it was up to Fusion Garage.”
From CrunchPad To The JooJoo
The device has now been renamed JooJoo, inspired by an African meaning of magic. The device has a 12.1″ touchscreen and accelerometer, 4 GB SSD, Wi-Fi connectivity, no SIM slot and claimed 5 hour battery life powered by an UNIX web-based operating system. Of course, Chandra repeated that the device boots up in 9 seconds but did not give any demo of the apps installed inside (Twitter, Facebook, Flicker, Gmail etc.). He did mention that if the user is offline, there will be a local cache that stores the data, for e.g. GMail.
Chandra holding the JooJoo, sourced from Engadget.
The JooJoo And How You Can Get Your Hands On It
The price of the JooJoo device is USD 499, and the site for ordering the device can be found here: http://www.thejoojoo.com. By the way, the product only comes in one color: black. To be honest, I personally think that the price of JooJoo is way too expensive for a netbook.
A few things popped up in the press conference. One, we still do not know who the investors behind Fusion Garage are. But we know that they have raised USD 3M and another investor will be announced this week. Two, according to Chandra, TechCrunch contributed nothing other than marketing. In Chandra’s words about the whole saga between TechCrunch and Fusion Garage:
“There was never any agreement of any kind between the two companies. This was nothing more than a potential acquisition that didn’t occur. Michael sat back while we took all the risk. The suggestion that Michael or TechCrunch owns anything is simply ludicrous.”
It runs in contradiction to one claim made by Mike Arrington in his post:
“Their team has mixed with our CrunchPad team, which is led by Brian Kindle, the former Vice President Hardware Engineering and Manufacturing at Vudu and an early hardware engineer at TiVo. Development expenses have been shared, and our team has spent time in Singapore and Taiwan, and their team has spent time here.
If we believe what Chandra has said on the IP of JooJoo, it will lead us to the conclusion that Mike Arrington has failed “Entrepreneurship 101″ with the mistake that they have not signed a single contract with Fusion Garage. Of course, we expect a refutation from Mike Arrington and TechCrunch very soon. Originally we were hoping that Chandra will pull a CEO of a MNC (like Intel, Apple) out of the bag but instead, he pulled out a JooJoo. The truth is often stranger than fiction.
Where Does This Leave TechCrunch?
With this press conference and the launch of The JooJoo, TechCrunch seems to have been totally left by the wayside by Fusion Garage. Like some annoying kid you had to boot out of your car for some peace and quiet, leaving the child stranded by the desert road, flailing his arms wildly with frightened tears streaming down his cheeks. Only this time, TechCrunch is not so much frightened as angry, and probably stomping down the road in pursuit of Fusion Garage, breathing in toxic fumes and creating more fodder for tech tabloid hungry journalists and bloggers.
Now that the video conference is over with Chandra and the ball is back to the TechCrunch court. All of us are now wondering, “What will be Mike Arrington’s next move?”
Joint article by Bernard and Gwen.
Images courtesy of Engadget and elisfanclub.
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About The Author
Bernard Leong - Co-Founder
Dr Bernard Leong is currently in Vistaprint as a technology manager, where he manages an engineering team and builds new products for emerging markets. His former entrepreneurial stints include CTO and co-founder of Chalkboard where he has architected the platform for location based advertising across web and mobile, and also an early stage investor in Thymos Capital with Lunch Actually, Padlet and iHipo. His accolades include the Young Professional of the Year Award for the Singapore Computer Society 2010 and Outstanding Young Alumni for National University of Singapore 2007. His expertise includes technology and social media. Currently, Bernard also serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with INSEAD Business School and taught courses in entrepreneurship in NTU.Read other posts by Bernard Leong