Fusion Garage made a name for itself with the JooJoo tablet, a disappointing tablet that launched in 2010. Now the company is back with a new tablet called the Grid 10 and a smartphone called the Grid 4 — and they run a new Android-based operating system called GridOS.
The Grid 10 goes up for pre-order today for $499 for a WiFi-only version and $599 for a 3G model.
Update: The price has been dropped to $299 for a WiFi tablet.
Update 2: The company went belly up in 2012. The rest of the original article follows below.
It’s expected to ship on September 15th. The Grid 4 smartphone will ship in the fourth quarter of the year for $399. That’s the price for a carrier unlocked smartphone with a 4 inch, 800 x 480 pixel display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor.
The Grid 10 tablet has a 10.1 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display and a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor. It has a 4-point capacitive touch panel, a front-facing 1.3MP camera, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of storage, GPS, a 3-axis gyroscope, an accelerometer, and ambient light sensor. The tablet weighs 1.5 pounds.
But it’s not the hardware that sets the Grid 10 apart from virtually every other tablet on the market. It’s the operating system.
GridOS is based on the Android kernel and the tablet can run Android apps. It will ship with the Amazon Appstore for Android, but also with a Grid Shop which will offer both Android apps and native apps written for the operating system.
What sets the OS apart from Android is a custom user interface, a custom suite of apps including media players and email apps, Microsoft Bing integration and a feature Fusion Garage calls “Seamless State” which lets you resume watching a movie, listening to a song, or performing another action at the space where you last left off. You can even pick up a video on the phone from the point where you stopped watching on your tablet or vice versa.
The GridOS home screen does away with Android’s page view. Instead there’s a scrollable grid. This way you can scroll smoothly from one part of your home screen to the next — or view a little map icon in the upper right corner to give you an overview. The email app supports a multi-panel view, and the web browser supports a split-screen view that lets you see multiple web pages side-by-side.
The web browser has what the company calls a “chromeless” design, which means that you don’t see a URL bar, back or forward buttons, or other features that take up screen real estate. Instead you use on-screen gestures and an on-screen scroll wheel that lets you move between browser tabs and perform other gestures.
In a demo today Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan tried to make the case that the GridOS operating system is easier to use, or more powerful in some way than Android. I’m not convinced. The gestures look complicated, the home screen looks difficult to navigate.
It is nice to see a company bringing something a little different to the table, but Fusion Garage’s JooJoo tablet was widely panned by earlier users and reviewers. The hardware in the new Grid 10 tablet looks a little stronger — and tablets with similar hardware have been on the market for much of 2011, so Fusion Garage isn’t taking quite as many risks with hardware this time around.
The company is promising to send all JooJoo customers a free Grid 10 tablet. I get the feeling that move won’t be all that expensive, since not very many JooJoo tablets sold in the first place.
Fusion Garage will also be selling tablet accessories including an HDMI cable, USB cables, adapters, cases, and headphones.
What do you think? Would you buy a tablet from Fusion Garage? Are you interested in a phone or tablet with a new Android-based operating system but a radically different look and feel?
Incidentally, the press event Fusion Garage held today seemed to included canned applause sound effects. The fusiongarage.com web address still redirects to thejoojoo.com, while www.fusiongarage.com features the company’s new products. And the dimensions listed for the 10 inch tablet seem to suggest it measures 4.8″ x 2.5″ x 0.38″. In other words, there’s plenty of reason to question Fusion Garage’s professionalism (or at least attention to detail), even as the company claims that it’s received millions of dollars in new investment and employs over 100 people.