A new generation of computer tablets is on its way

Dec 17, 2009 By Troy Wolverton
The Joo Joo tablet notebook.

I may have caught a glimpse of the future last week. In San Francisco, a startup company called Fusion Garage showed off the JooJoo, a touch-screen device that looks like the iPhone's big brother. The JooJoo is one of the first of a new generation of tablet computers expected to hit store shelves in the coming year.

Much of the buzz around tablet computers has focused on the one Apple has reportedly long had in development and is widely expected to unveil early next year. But similar devices are expected to arrive in coming months as well, many running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, which supports multitouch gestures common on touch-screen devices.

Back in August, with rumors about Apple's so-called iTablet reaching a crescendo, I was skeptical about the potential of such a device -- and the whole concept of tablet PCs. I couldn't see anyone trading out a notebook or a cell phone for such a device, which meant tablet makers would have to convince consumers to buy yet another gadget -- something I figured they'd be reluctant to do.

But after playing with the JooJoo, I'm less dubious. Maybe these types of will find a market after all.

The JooJoo, which is slated to ship in February and can be pre-ordered from Fusion Garage, is designed as a "living room" device. By that I mean you can use it to surf the Web, read electronic books, check e-mail, watch Web videos and even place video calls -- all while leaning back against the comfy cushions on your couch. That's a lot different from the typical Web surfing experience today, which usually involves being stuck in the study with a desktop or being hunched over a laptop.

Unlike a laptop, the JooJoo doesn't have a keyboard. Instead, it's got a 12-inch through which you can press virtual buttons or access a virtual keyboard.

Also unlike a typical computer, it doesn't allow you to load full-scale programs on it. Its operating system is built around a Web browser, so any applications you use have to be Web-based. Fortunately, it does support Adobe's Flash, which should allow you to view all kinds of video and play lots of Flash-based games.

I already do most of my home Web surfing these days on my iPhone, so the appeal of the JooJoo is obvious to me.

Like an iPhone, you can hold it in your hand, making it more portable than a laptop. But it has a much bigger screen than an iPhone, making it better for reading or watching videos. And because it's built around a Web browser, you have access to Web-based video and other content that's often difficult to get on to your TV, even with the latest Internet-connected set-top boxes.

Despite all that, the JooJoo is not quite there, and I can't see buying it. First off, Fusion Garage is in a legal dispute with a former collaborator, which may block it from ever shipping the JooJoo. And the JooJoo has other problems. It costs too much and does too little.

Fusion Garage has priced it at $500. That's more expensive than most netbooks and about the same price as some ultrathin computers, both of which can do more than JooJoo because they have full operating systems.

Unlike those devices, you can't do much on the JooJoo without an Internet connection, except view content stored in its browser's cache. Because you can't install applications on it that will run without an Internet connection, you won't be playing any complex games on it.

The JooJoo also won't let you permanently store music or movies on it or even access such files from an external drive. So you're limited to what you can find through a Web browser, rather than the music you may have stored at home or can download through stores such as iTunes.

That might not be such a problem if it had a 3G antenna to allow you to connect to the Internet over the cell phone companies' widespread networks. Unfortunately, the only kind of Internet connection the JooJoo can use is via Wi-Fi. While many consumers now have Wi-Fi routers at home or at their offices, hot spots can be hard to find elsewhere.

Still, for all its shortcomings, the JooJoo did open my eyes to the possibilities of tablet computers. If some company can make one that's less pricey -- or at least more capable -- they just might have a winner.

Explore further: What's next for the smartphone in a rapidly changing market?

3.4 /5 (8 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nokia 770 Internet Tablet Starts Shipping

Nov 07, 2005

Nokia today announced that it has started deliveries of the first device in its new Internet Tablet product category, the Nokia 770. The sleek, pocket sized device is Nokia's first Linux-based terminal product ...

Apple to unveil tablet computer: reports

Jul 27, 2009

What's next from Apple? According to various reports, the California-based company plans to come out later this year with a portable tablet-sized computer that can surf the Web and may also serve as an electronic book reader.

New Nokia N810 Internet Tablet hits store shelves

Nov 19, 2007

Nokia announced today that the new Nokia N810 Internet Tablet has begun shipping nationwide in the United States. With a new slide-out keyboard, built-in GPS, digital audio/video playback and Wi-Fi capability ...

Palm Pre: It's almost an iPhone

Jun 18, 2009

The new Palm Pre from Sprint is the best attempt yet to create a phone that is as powerful, elegant and simple to use as the Apple iPhone.

Recommended for you

Review: Better cameras, less glare in iPad Air 2

1 hour ago

If I've seen you taking photos with a tablet computer, I've probably made fun of you (though maybe not to your face, depending on how big you are). I'm old school: I much prefer looking through the viewfinder ...

Samsung phones cleared for US government use

23 hours ago

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday some of its Galaxy mobile devices were approved by the National Security Agency for use with classified U.S. government networks and data, a boost to the company's efforts to expand in ...

Review: Apple Pay in action

Oct 21, 2014

If there ever comes a day I can ditch my wallet and use my phone to pay for everything, I'll look back to my first purchase through Apple Pay: a Big Mac and medium fries for $5.44. That wallet-free day won't ...

Samsung seeks boost from redesigned Note

Oct 21, 2014

The latest version of Samsung's popular big-screen Galaxy Note has gone on sale at a crucial time for the South Korean company as it suffers a rapid decline in profit from its global smartphone business.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Kedas
not rated yet Dec 18, 2009
Only a fixed Web browser gives some serious limitations.
Yelmurc
not rated yet Dec 18, 2009
The JooJoo will have a hard time in the market since Michael Arrington will be filling lawsuits.

This device was originally called the crunchpad and was marketed by the techcrunch blog.