Mobile handset manufacturer CSL Group is unheard of here, but in Southeast Asia it claims to sell more handsets than anyone besides Nokia. CSL stands for “Commitment Service Loyalty,” and Malaysians buy a lot of CSL’s flagrantly-named Blueberry smartphones.
They’re more than big enough to handle manufacturing of Fusion Garage’s JooJoo tablet computer, which began life as TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington’s CrunchPad. Compared to Apple’s iPad tablet, the JooJoo has a much larger screen that also boasts widescreen movie resolution, and much simpler software than Apple’s gesture-driven applications. On the JooJoo, everything is done in a browser window. There are no downloadable apps. Unlike the iPad, it eagerly supports Flash animation in Web pages.
Let’s be clear: The JooJoo will be built across the ocean, but it’s target market is very much the United States of America, where people blow $500 on a Kindle.
JooJoo’s maker, Fusion Garage, began taking orders for the $499 units — same price as an entry-level Apple iPad — in mid-December, with a promise to ship in “8-10 weeks.” It looks like the deal with CSL will enable that to happen. In a phone interview Sunday, Fusion Garage CEO Chandrasekar “Chandra” Rathakrishnan pledged that the first JooJoos will be in customers’ hands before the end of February.
The arrangement between Fusion Garage and CSL Group, Rathakrishnan told me, removes all of Fusion Garage’s upfront costs of manufacturing, in exchange for a royalty that CSL will receive on each JooJoo tablet sold.
I’ve followed the JooJoo story avidly because it’s a real-life example of the stuff Wired magazine talks about nowadays: Anyone with an idea can get a product built and sold by outsourcing everything but the idea itself.
In the case of the JooJoo, Arrington has filed a lawsuit claiming that Fusion Garage, the 13-person Singapore company that built the first prototype CrunchPads, stole his idea and renamed it JooJoo so they could sell it themselves and cut him out of the picture except as a product evangelist.
Lawsuits are boring, but the fact that one guy’s blog post can turn into a mass-market product that challenges Apple and Amazon is pretty cool.
Update: Fusion Garage has put out a press release about their partnership with CSL.