CrunchPad, take two: Meet JooJoo

It's baa-aack. The Web tablet that lived and died as the CrunchPad is reborn as the 'JooJoo.' Interesting? Yes -- but would you pay $499 for one?

Just when you thought the CrunchPad was dead (or that Michael Arrington might actually shut up for five minutes) along comes news of its revival, only this time it's got a new name and a new daddy.

In an effort to "tell their side of the story," erstwhile CrunchPad manufacturers Fusion Magic Garage held a press event yesterday to announce that, yes, the "dead simple Web tablet" is still alive, only without Arrington's participation or his original name.

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The new name? JooJoo.

Because, apparently, FooFoo was taken.

JooJoo is an African term for "magical" (I've always seen it spelled "juju," but never mind) and that's what Fusion Magic Garage is desperately hoping to conjure up with the tablet, which conforms to most of the specs Arrington's been braying about for months with one key exception: Instead of costing less than $200, the JooJoo will clock in at $499.

So, to recap: The company is selling a 2.4-pound touchscreen-based Web browsing device running a custom OS that only works on Wi-Fi for the cost of a netbook running Windows and a wireless broadband card. And it's named JooJoo.

Wired's Priya Ganapati did a hands-on with the JooJoo, and found it "elegant" and "simple," though also a bit slow and overpriced. Fusion Magic Garage is planning to take orders later this week (assuming it gets any) and deliver the first JooJoos to customers in 8 to 10 weeks.

But first the company has to get around the 900-pound purple elephant in the room named Michael. My Tech Turkey of the Year for 2009 has been threatening to unleash his legal beagles on Fusion Garage and anyone else who's been within 20 yards of them for the past year.

I have a theory about what happened. Arrington was so impossible to work with that his partners finally just dumped him from the project. Per Fusion Garage CEO and founder Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan:

"Michael made many promises suggesting he will deliver on hardware, deliver on software, deliver on funding -- none of which came true. We had to move on," Rathakrishnan said in a webcast Monday.

The downside for Fusion Garage? Instead of having a very loud bullhorn promoting the CrunchPad (and 600,000 slavish readers lapping up news about it every day), it has the opposite: a sworn enemy who does not hesitate to take editorial revenge for even small slights.

When you're a company nobody's heard of, trying to introduce a new device for a market that doesn't yet exist, with feverish rumors of somebody like Apple stepping in and crushing you -- and you're charging way too much money -- the odds of your survival are slight.

But a device that does what the CrunchPad/JooJoo promises to do (at an affordable price and with a name that doesn't make you smirk) would be a very good thing. So good luck to Fusion Garage -- it'll need it.

Note: In past blog posts I've referred to Mr. Arrington as "Captain Crunch." Cringester S.C. points out that this nickname rightly belongs to John Draper, the original phone phreak, who used a toy whistle from a Cap'n Crunch cereal box to hack Ma Bell. So from here on out, no more confusing the hacking legend with the man who's a legend in his own mind.

Would you buy a JooJoo? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me:

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