It's like the slowest moving flamewar in the history of the internet. Every week we get another volley of verbosity.
First, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington told the world the CrunchPad was dead (CrunchPad dies in a stunning display of web-drama) and lamented the loss of his new BFF, Fusion Garage's Chandra Rathakrishnan. About a week later, Rathakrishnan introduced us to the JooJoo (The CrunchPad is dead. Long live the JooJoo!) while saying "Michael was completely unable to deliver.". December 11th was listed as the date the JooJoo would be available for pre-order. That was also the date that Arrington returned fire (CrunchPad's Arrington responds to the JooJoo), sharing the details of a lawsuit he is filing against Fusion Garage and letting us all know that "The founder of Fusion Garage, Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, isn’t a good guy." and going on to detail why (as well as warn us away from pre-ordering a JooJoo).
So that brings us up to date. Yesterday it was Fusion Garage's turn again. The company sent out a statement that you can read at Silicon Valley Insider. This one is a little bit more professional than the out and out mud-slinging that has characterized these exchanges up until now. But the statement does as much harm as good.
Specifically, when referring to claims that Fusion Garage is using ODM manufacturer Pegatron's design illegally, the statement says:
Fusion Garage is now working with another top tier ODM to develop a completely new board and mechanical layout that is the basis for the joojoo. To state, as the lawsuit and accompanying blog post do, that Fusion Garage’s joojoo is based on any Pegatron IP is false.
So, Rathakrishnan has been showing off a working prototype of the JooJoo, but the company is developing a completely new board for the production units. And yet they're still taking pre-orders and promising to ship in 8 to 10 weeks. Does this sound somehow wrong to anyone else? I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert on bringing a device like the JooJoo to market, but doesn't that timeline sound awfully optimistic? Is anyone confident they'll meet that launch date? That's not a rhetorical question: if you have experience in developing hardware I'd love to hear your thoughts.
On the other hand, Fusion Garage makes a point similar to one I made. Arrington went from lauding Rathakrishnan during the happier phases of the CrunchPad's development, to telling us all about what a sketchy individual Rathakrishnan is once the deal collapsed. In response the statement says:
Arrington’s attacks on Rathakrishnan’s past business activities are unfounded. The points he raises are old news and raise the question of why he would want to do business with Rathakrishnan if his past was so controversial.
I think that's a valid point.
But I also still think $500 for the JooJoo is much too high. CES is just around the corner and it sounds like we're going to see the announcement of several similar, but more capable, devices. (A couple of examples, Notion Ink's smartpad and ICD's Vega.) Sure there's something to be said for a simple device like the JooJoo, but with simplicity we also expect reasonably low prices. If someone wanted to give me a JooJoo I'd happily take it, but there's no way I'd shell out $500 for one, let alone place a pre-order while all this uncertainty surrounds the device.
Anyway, the ball is in Arrington's court now. I wonder if he'll respond to this latest statement, or if he's had his say and will be content to let the courts decide on the fate of the JooJoo.