Fusion Garage Could Reshape the Mobile Market with the Grid 10 Tablet and Grid 4 Smartphone

by on March 7th, 2015
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Until Monday August 15, the few people who had heard of Fusion Garage before that day remembered the wrongfully failed JooJoo tablet. At that time, even fewer had heard of TabCo, a company involved with that tablet but, as it turns out, TabCo was a faux company created by Fusion Garage and the JooJoo was, in actuality, the Grid 10 tablet just announced. Make no mistake, the only way that this new company and its product can fail to change the landscape of mobile devices is if it is not serious, and if the GridOS, Grid 10 tablet, or Grid 4 smartphone really do not exist. Since we know that these devices really do exist, the mobile market is about the change drastically.

CrunchPad, JooJoo, TabCo, and Fusion Garage Timeline

First, let’s talk about the back story. The saying, “to make a long story short,” applies as the real story behind Fusion Garage, the Grid 10, the JooJoo tablet, and TabCo goes back to 2008 and involves a very real lawsuit along with several joke “Guerrilla Marketing” campaigns and spoof products.

July 2008: The CrunchPad Project begins, started by Michael Arrington who is the owner/author of TechCrunch. This project had every intention of building an easy to use, $200 web-based tablet. They founded the project on July 21, 2008 with the manifesto, “We Want a Dead Simple Web Tablet for $200. Help Us Build It.”

November 2008: Collaboration between Fusion Garage and a company called Dynacept began. The CrunchPad, as it was called, was owned by neither company, but by all equally.

January 2009: This collaboration resulted in several prototypes and a near pre-production model of the CrunchPad tablet, Prototype “B.”

October 2009: Popular Mechanics magazine names the CrunchPad one of the top 10 “Most Brilliant Products of 2009.”

November 2009: TechCrunch announces the death of the CrunchPad, Fusion Garage announces it pulled out of the project and that it is developing the product on its own – the JooJoo is born.

December 1009: Michael Arrington files a lawsuit against Fusion Garage. Fusion Garage holds a press event, telling their side of the story.

February 2010: Customers are told that the JooJoo is shipping by that March 25 of that year, but it never does.

April 2010: Engadget reviews the JooJoo anticipating its release, even though the company pushed back the release date, finding it is probably the best tablet that would have been available at the time, for under $500.

November 2010: Fusion Garage announced it was ending the JooJoo project, before consumers could buy it.

From that day until Monday August 15 2011, a company called “TabCo” released a teasing advertising campaign focused on “something revolutionary,” that they would announce on August 15 2011. The campaign included YouTube videos and press releases. Then, the mystery company is unveiled, with Fusion Garage as the company and the Grid 10 tablet and Grid 4 smartphone as products. While this tale may seem sordid and shadowy, and while some juicy bits will be seen and heard about the company and its deception, the products newly unveiled are, in just one word, “Slick.”

Offering Consumers an OS That its Competitors Don’t

First, it takes a bit of iron to release a product line as an outsider in the current U.S. mobile market. The stealthy marketing has created a Segway-like buzz that certainly cannot hurt. The real star here may be the GridOS powering the two devices. This is not the only alternative to the Android-Apple cold war, but it would seem it is the OS that was built on what users want, giving them exactly what they were not getting from other current products on the market.

The two devices are a matched pair in more than just a stylistic sense, as they run the same GridOS and are very nearly seamlessly linked via a cloud service. This means that the devices offer exactly what BlackBerry said it would not offer – a tight collaboration and user experience continuity that consumers wanted from the PlayBook and BlackBerry smartphones.

The GridOS even delivers on the promise of a “cool Windows smartphone,” only it is not a Microsoft Windows phone. Yes, the GridOS has a very Windows Phone 7 feel to it, and it is more of a Windows Phone 7 than Microsoft’s Windows Phone is or ever will be. In fact, even though the GridOS is based on the Android core, interestingly enough the default search engine is Bing and very Microsoft-esque.

Win lose or draw, this company has done what others simply do not – will not – do in its bid to break in to the market, and that is attempt to sell exactly what real consumers really want. Price-wise the company has its devices on par for the course and specs-wise, the Grid 10 and Grid 4 are, again, par for the course. The GridOS has tremendous potential as a market force due to its consumer/user focus, and there is no “under the hood,” but instead, it is just the fast, slick UI. Yes, it will run Android Apps and there will be native GridOS apps available soon.

GridOS Details

The GridOS User Interface is sleek, responsive and intuitive; it consists of an infinite grid with a visually stunning 3D effect that users can pan in any direction as if the screen is scrolling. Apps and User Icons are placed in squares on the grid and when you place two or more together, the system automatically groups them together and asks you for a name.

As to the devices’ cloud service, the example that is being used is that you can start watching a movie on your Grid 10 tablet, pause the film, and finish watching on your Grid 4 smartphone. That is almost cool enough to justify the whole thing. While details are few, the synchronization feature should include much more than just media state. This unified experience includes the desktop as well via a GridOS Desktop application for PC and Mac, from which user files and media will come, and it can retrieve user files from iTunes as well.

As to its styling, this could be the first device that actually looks as good – if not better than – the iPhone/iPad runway queens look. A productivity app called Grid Frame will be included in an update. Both devices support native, platform independent, video conferencing, which will also be included in the update.

The most interesting feature is the predictive intelligence system that will, for example, load up a map of a meeting’s location, or provide options based on the user and relevant semantic web data automatically. This could very well be the real killer feature as it further concentrates the OS on the user’s needs and direct experience, as we imagined that the “Star-Trekie” personal information managers would do.

No product is perfect out of the gate, but Fusion Garage has produced what would seem to be a fusion of many products, or rather, parts of many products that device manufacturers refuse to give consumers, such as BlackBerry and Microsoft, among others, and they did it in a garage, secretly. If the company delivers on what we are seeing already, on what it has shown to potential users, the GridOS, Grid 10, and Grid 4 could be a major player in the making, tearing the market apart when or even if feels like stepping up – provided this is not just another advertising joke anyway.

References & Sources

“About the GridOS,” Fusion Garage

“Grid 10 Product Details,” Fusion Garage

“Grid 4 Product Details,” Fusion Garage

Michael Gorman, “Fusion Garage Grid 10 Tablet and Grid 4 Smartphone Hands On,” Engadget

The Editors, “10 Most Brilliant Products of 2009: TechCrunch CrunchPad Tablet,” Popular Mechanics

“Original Complaint filed by TechCrunch against Fusion Garage,” Doc Stock

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