The JooJoo Tablet: Is $499 Too Much To Pay For Potential?

joojooThe fine folks at Fusion Garage landed in New York today continuing their whirlwind publicity tour starring the newly minted JooJoo tablet. Setting aside my misgivings about the name, I found myself getting the gadget-acquiring itch in my short time with the device. It looks good, feels good, and is a lot of fun to play with. It’s somewhat like what I imagined the Apple tablet would be hardware-wise. I’m not as excited about the software concept, though.

The 13.3-inch device holds a glossy 12.1-inch capacitive screen that displays bright, crisp colors when surfing web pages or watching HD video. It only weighs 2.4 lbs (just shy of a netbook’s weight) and is thinner than a MacBook Air. This sounds impressive, but remember that the JooJoo has no keyboard, just a screen. Also like the MacBook Air, it also only has one USB port.

Weight-wise, the JooJoo strikes a balance between feeling sturdy and well-built and keeping a svelte profile. Still, while holding it with one hand and navigating the web with the other, I could tell that my wrist would complain after a relatively short usage time. Of course, with the built-in accelerometer, I wouldn’t be stuck holding it just one way. We saw a few stand prototypes for the device to keep it stable and upright while watching videos or surfing the web.

The screen is beautiful, but has the same problem most glossy displays have: poor viewing angles. We didn’t get a chance to test this extensively, I just noticed some color distortion while watching a video clip at a downward angle. One thing I really love is the size. There is plenty of screen real-estate for viewing Web pages as they’re meant to be seen.

Touch is intuitive and works about the same as on the iPhone/iPod Touch except there isn’t pinch and zoom. Fusion Garage’s CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan reasoned that since users will be able to view web sites at full size they won’t need to zoom in, which makes sense.

The device we saw was a pre-production unit, so the few quirks I noticed while working with the touchscreen should be ironed out soon. I had some difficulty hitting smaller elements like links or tiny icons in Facebook. It was also difficult for me because I have fingernails and the screen only responds to capacitive touch (that’s a major issue and worth another blog post). Touch worked just fine on larger elements, as you’ll see in the video below. I was even able to play a credible game of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook.


The JooJoo is definitely fun to play with. It’s the functionality angle that I’m still dubious about. One of my major criticisms is the lack of ports and expansion options. Simplicity is great and I wouldn’t want to crowd the edge with too many ports, but no memory card or simcard slots? No multi I/O port for docking stations? This is a missed opportunity. Chandra said that mice and keyboards would be supported via the USB port, but I can see things getting far too complicated and overwrought with adding hubs to add more ports to add useful peripherals. A docking option would make that a bit easier.

Then again, it wouldn’t do to get too complex with the JooJoo as it’s an Internet-focused device. As with Chrome OS, the operating system here — developed in-house by Fusion Garage — is essentially a browser. The home screen includes shortcuts to websites grouped by categories — communication, entertainment, news portals, etc. Also like Chrome OS, Chandra plans for JooJoo owners to have access to content and applications offline. Via JooJoo APIs, developers will have the opportunity to extend the usefulness of the tablet beyond wireless borders.

This is all in the (near) future, which brings me to another major criticism: This tablet costs $499 — not a bad price for a large capacitive touchscreen device with excellent graphics and what seems to be a speedy processor. Still, it is a lot of money to lay down for a gadget that has good but admittedly limited functionality now and might get more robust in the future. If developers don’t jump at the chance to enhance the JooJoo’s functionality and if content, distribution, and other partners aren’t as thick on the ground as Fusion Garage leads us to believe, where will that leave people who pre-order it tomorrow?

$499 is a lot to spend on potential. Even if the potential is great… and it is.

We’ll get to see finalized devices later this month and take an in-depth look at what a person can get done with a JooJoo. What tasks should we attempt beyond consuming media and updating Twitter?

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  1. kp711 Says:

    I don’t know if $499 is right price for the potential of joojoo but all I can say is if this product was apple or google tablet with same functionality, people would treat it as a jesustablet, or maybe mosestablet. The legal issues surrounding this whole thing is definitely hurting the bright side of the product but i do think this is a great step forward in tablet design atleast hardware wise. I do wish they would leave sd card slot in there, along with vlc, would make this a great media consumption device as well. I’m disappointed with Archos 9, which I thought would be a great tablet so I’m going to give these guys a try and preorder tomorrow. If OS isn’t perfect, I’m hoping it is hackable to put ChromeOS or even Win 7. The internal pics posted by Arrington showed mini PCI express slots and sodimm memory slot making it expandable, if they don’t change the design and start soldering stuff onboard. Thanks.

  2. dave Says:

    I’ve been following this saga since MA announced he wanted to do this project. I can’t believe that he is a lawyer, and did not cover his legal arse and draw up the contracts that wouild have protected him. The price is higher than first promulgated, but it will be cheap when (if) Apple comes out with the iTablet @ $999. Then people will be flocking to it. I agree with a lot of bloggers about the lack of amenities, i.e. SD card slot, more USB ports, mini PCI express slots, etc. But, you should be able to slave an external HD thru a hub and work. But this thing was designed for surfing.

  3. JonGl Says:

    The fact that this is not Apple or that it has gone through a soap opera of drama will have nothing to do with its failure. The reason is very simple, and is also the reason why even an Apple tablet will fail, IMO. It’s in the article, but most people will simply overlook it:

    “Still, while holding it with one hand and navigating the web with the other, I could tell that my wrist would complain after a relatively short usage time.”

    A tablet just isn’t the best way to deal with a computer. Sure, there will those of us geeks who will use it, and overlook the strain on the wrist, etc. (Hey, I used a Newton for 10 years! I know all about that.) But for common people, the inability to rest it on your lap, like a laptop, with a hinged screen, will just take away any potential appeal. At 12 inches, this guy is huge! The iPhone and other small devices win in this area, simply because they can be held in the hand, and disappear. This tablet, on the other hand, is just too big to balance in or on the palm, and will always be tugging down, and there is that wrist strain. This is the deal killer for all tablets. I don’t see how to overcome it! And if you want to write, it is worse than trying to write on a clipboard or paper notebook, because of the weight (and cost) of the electronics. I just don’t see these things ever taking off, unless we can somehow overcome physics, or the limitations of silicon. Personally, I long for the day, but I don’t hold out any hopes. I’m sure I would buy a tablet (but not the JooJoo–I have no desire to take sides in this battle, so will just stay out of the fray) despite the inherent weaknesses, if it worked well enough, but I also know I’m in the minority. :-)


  4. Confuzzled Says:

    This thing is so damn close to being perfect it’s maddening.

    I can understand a web OS only, but would a compact Unix flavor really add to the cost?

    Why no integrated bluetooth to eliminate the need for more then the single USB port? Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combos, with the USB port being occupied by my thumb drive.

    Why no RF “pen” with palm rejection to put one in every college kids hands?

    Is there going to be online storage?

    Why does no one in the CE industry understand the point of a cheap, small, tablet as the best friend a college student can have? Etext book reader, note taker, web browser and email machine. Not to mention all of the other professional applications something like this could present for a variety of professions.

    An A for effort, but so far, the execution gets a D+. So much wrong with the potential for so much more.

    This from someone who loosely followed the crunchpad debacle with Arrington so I’m giving it a fair shake.

  5. Fanfoot Says:

    I want something like this, but this probably isn’t it. It needs to be big enough to browse the web with, light enough to hold for long periods of time, fast enough that scrolling is easy and smooth (esp. if you have to do that a lot to compensate for the lower screen resolution). That may be a tall order. Sounds like the weight of this one is a bit too much, meaning maybe this size isn’t doable with the screen, CPU and battery technology here. Obvious question is whether its possible at all. Rumors at one point had Apple using a 12″ screen too, though it was apparently an OLED, which would take power consumption down. Also, the new generation of Pineview CPUs will reduce power. But battery tech isn’t going anywhere fast and an OLED that size might not be doable yet. Perhaps we’ll just have to live with smaller displays at first, like 10″ or whatever if that’s what it takes. Maybe that means the category won’t happen yet.

  6. MsJoanne Says:

    No need to zoom? Really? There are times I zoom on my large laptop. If I want details on a photo or if the text is just too small.

    Plus, 2.4 lbs would hurt to hold. That’s almost the size of my netbook and I could not imagine holding it for hours reading or surfing.

    Shame…looked promising.

  7. Blkjk13 Says:

    Why are we comparing a joojoo to an iPad?! It doesn’t make sense. The joojoo is an overgrown iPad imitating computer monitor that’s only good for accessing the full facebook website and porn. Why someone would want to buy a device that only does the web, I don’t know. It’s 500 dollars and doesn’t do half of what the iPad 16gb wifi only. It just doesn’t make sense folks. If you are buying on potential, it would make more sense to buy an iPad and sell it later when the joojoo is worth it’s money, which will probably never happen.

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