Q&A With Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan On The JooJoo

Following this morning’s conference call and live video debut of Fusion Garage’s JooJoo (the tablet previously known as the CrunchPad) I had the opportunity to chat with CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan this afternoon about the product and ask him some questions, including a number of questions submitted by readers.

The answers may be slightly edited for brevity (and the fact I only managed to record half the chat, so some answers are going on notes.) I should note though that some answers were as brief as they appear in the transcript.

Q: What’s the deal with the name? How did you come up with it and what does it mean?

A: JooJoo is a Mexican term for magical, and we believe that it describes the many things the product does.

Q: Do you intend to sell it through retail outlets, and as an extension of that, are you currently negotiating retail distribution deals?

A: Yes, and we are discussing retail distribution through a variety of outlets.

Q: Any time frame? Are we likely to see JooJoo’s in stores in the short term, or longer?

A: Definitely the short term, and in the first half of next year.

Q: Is Australia on the list?

A: We’ll be targeting the United States market first, but Australia in one of several countries we would hope to be selling the Joojoo in next year.

Q: How do the economies of scale work in the short term when you’re only selling online? Do you have any sales projections at this stage, or would you rather not say?

A: At this stage we’re not saying.

Q: Some of the criticism online since the launch this morning has been on the price. Michael Arrington has been talking $200 and $300. Have you market tested demand at $500?

A: I think there is going to be demand at the price we have set. When people play with the device and what it brings to the table they’ll appreciate the value for the price with performance. There’s no comparable product; it’s a new product in itself. Compared it to a Kindle DX, a 9.7″ ebook, or the iPhone which is 3.5″ and $299 with contract, $1200 without out; compare it to our product at $499, we’re not even charging a premium for it.

Q: how do you see the JooJoo competing with an Apple tablet if one is launched next year?

A: If and when it does happen, Apple will go with a cut down Mac, or an iPhone style widget interface. If widgets, consumers will have a choice between an app centric approach from Apple, or the open web centric approach on the JooJoo. Apple has the app store, but the internet has the largest app store of all and that’s what we’re offering. We’re taking the high ground and we’ll be taking a completely different approach to Apple, and we believe that the audience will respond to that.

Q: On the mention of “open,” Michael Arrington talked about the CrunchPad being open source. Obviously the OS on the JooJoo is built on top of Linux, do you have any plans to open source the OS?

A: Open source is not part of the strategy right now, but never say never. The open source technologies will continue to contribute back to the community, but we’ve merged the Webkit layer into the Linux Kernel. Michael Arrington’s open source stories were his, and we didn’t have a part to play in it.

Q: Moving on to the legal action threatened by TechCrunch; Fusion Garage is in Singapore, the manufacturer in Taiwan. Do you see Arrington’s threats of legal action in the US as possibly having any affect on your operations, presuming that the jurisdictional issues don’t get in the way?

A: I don’t think so, but even in the American legal system we own all the IP, so there is no claim.

Q: You’re 100% certain that all the IP belongs to you, and that Arrington has no claim to it?

A: Arrington’s claims are clearly ludicrous. We’ve done all the software and hardware design, and legally own all the IP.

Q: a funny question from @Rizzn on Twitter: what will the Joojoo do better without the involvement of Michael Arrington?

A: What does it do better than what Arrington promises? It delivers! To make the point again, it definitely delivers. Second, Arrington had a vision where you had a wall, and we’ve delivered on that. What we’ve done is actually delivered on that.

Q: in the video this morning, the UI was green? Camera?

A: definitely camera, it’s more gray but you’d have to see it to explain it. We will be releasing screen shots shortly.

There was then some Q + A on the hardware. Nothing much new vs other coverage.

Q: Following the story in the Singapore press, there have been natural comparisons to Creative. Do you see Fusion Garage as potentially Singapore’s next big success story.

A: We hope so and this is something we’d like to achieve.

There you have folks, and thanks to all those who submitted questions via Twitter. Some were merged so it’s hard to credit each individually, but you know who you are.