Today was supposed to be launch day for the JooJoo tablet computer, a $499 device that promised to create a new genre of “couch computing.” Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Fusion Garage, which builds JooJoo, promised in a videocast on Monday that the company would begin accepting pre-orders today.
Unfortunately, the slim 12-inch wireless touchscreen device has been caught up in a sea of Internet drama between the device’s original designer and the company he partnered with to build it. What could have been a wonderful story about how even a lawyer-turned-journalist can design, build and sell a high-tech product using today’s outsource-it-all approach, is instead a cautionary tale about how things can go wrong.
The device, envisioned and designed in mid-2008 under the guidance of TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, a former lawyer by trade, was originally named CrunchPad. Spotting a potential hole in the gadget market, Arrington had switched part-time from journalist to entrepreneur, and set out to build and sell the Crunchpad himself by outsourcing as many aspects of the job as possible.
But a year and a half later, with the Crunchpad said to be only a few weeks from shipping, Arrington blogged that Rathakrishnan had cut him out of the business and was planning to sell the Crunchpad himself through Fusion Garage. Rathakrishnan, in his Monday webcast, claimed to have pushed Arrington out because the Crunchpad founder had “failed to deliver.”
So far, JooJoo’s website hasn’t been updated today from its Coming Soon homepage. The only news about JooJoo on the Internet is a long post by Arrington at TechCrunch that includes the full text of a lawsuit TechCrunch has filed against Fusion Garage.
On Monday, Arrington had written on Twitter, “There aren’t any more CrunchPad posts coming from us. It’s all in the lawyers hands now.” But today, he went long and deep in accusations against Rathakrishnan and Fusion Garage.
One of Arrington’s claims is that there were contradictions between Rathakrishnan’s videocast statements and earlier blog posts on Fusion Garage’s site, which is no longer online. It’s impossible to verify that without the original blog posts at hand. But for many would-be fans of the Crunchpad/JooJoo, the very act of taking down the blog seems suspicious.
I’ve asked Fusion Garage to respond. I’ll update the post if I hear back from them.