The JooJoo is a $500 tablet computer that, until last week, was called the CrunchPad, as it was being developed in conjunction with TechCrunch. (Now the sides are fighting a legal war.) Pre-orders begin tomorrow; the first units are set to ship in February, barring no further delays.
Based on the preliminary device I got to play with for a few moments this morning, the JooJoo is a decent stab at a tablet computer, and proved to me that tablet computing is a good idea. The display was very nice looking. It’s big, colourful, and shiny. The device itself is hefty — heavier than I expected — and doesn’t feel cheap. But it’s thicker than I had hoped for, and needs a fan, which makes a slight whirring noise.
The software needs major work, and now Fusion Garage, the company that’s making it, has a few months to make improvements. It took extra taps on the touchscreen to do most of the things I wanted to do. Much of the user interface is not very intuitive. There’s lots of room for polishing. (The browser’s fonts don’t look as nice as they should, for instance.) And I even crashed it once.
But the biggest problem I have with the device as a potential buyer: Until a bunch of stuff happens, it’s just an expensive gadget that only does one thing — Web browsing at wi-fi hotspots.
Yes, the company has made promises for offline support, maybe some sort of application system, and maybe 3G service. But that takes time, product development, and business development, and no brand-new app platform is going to be very good without a ton of users.
And if I’m going to have the opportunity next year to buy a tablet from Apple — which already has a lot of my media and apps in its platforms via my iPods, iPhone, and Macs, that’s going to be the obvious choice for me. Apple’s tablet will likely look and feel better, and be lighter and sleeker. And, no offence to whoever is designing the JooJoo’s user interface and operating system, but my gut tells me that Apple (and Microsoft, etc.) are going to do a much better job at designing those, too.
The business problem is that the JooJoo already has enough challenges between now and a successful product launch — financing, manufacturing, marketing, retail distribution, etc. — without the threat of competition from Apple, Amazon, or anyone. At $500, it’s far beyond “impulse purchase” range and does actually have to be good. Ideally, better than anything similar, or at least significantly cheaper.
And if the Apple tablet is as good as I’m hoping — and only a few hundred dollars more — the JooJoo is, as I said last week, toast.