Tablet maker Fusion Garage is on the ropes. One of the first companies to try and make tablet computing commercially viable, has been embroiled in a legal battle with its partners and this weekend lost its legal council after it failed to pay him. The JooJoo, once called the CrunchPad, could have been exciting. Now, it is likely to go down as an unremarkable footnote in history.
Fusion Garage is also the maker of the Grid 10 tablet, an Android slate that was released to terrible reviews and poor sales. As of Monday morning, a Grid 10 tablet was not available through the company's website. Fusion Garage appears to be on its way to a shallow grave, its path to demise lined with broken promises and bad products.
The impending doom for Fusion Garage reminds me of a line in the movie Tommy Boy where auto parts conglomerate Zalinsky, played by Dan Aykroyd, says, "We have to have the courage to take a few companies, tie them to a tree and bash their heads in with a shovel. That's progress."
Make no mistake, Fusion Garage's woes are progress. The tablet market can only withstand so many suppliers and the low end of the ecosystem already has established bottom feeders Acer and Asus cranking out cheap slates that most consumers will pass over.
With the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook providing cheap tablets that consumers actually want to buy, the squeeze is being put on the rest of the Android tablet market (or, really, the non-iPad market). The weak companies are going to start to die off if they don't find a strategy that actually makes money. Hewlett-Packard was probably smart to discontinue the HP TouchPad. Get out of the market before it collapses entirely and new products make your efforts look poor in comparison.
Another thing that hobbled Fusion Garage is the fact that they were never seen as playing fair. TechCrunch founder and now venture capitalist Michael Arrington has had a very public feud over the tablet that become the JooJoo. The project was originally supposed to be called the CrunchPad and would have pre-dated the release of the first iPad by months. Fusion Garage eventually cut ties with Arrington, released the JooJoo independently and were subsequently sued for fraud and breach of contract. That case is still ongoing, with AOL now representing TechCrunch's interests. Arrington posted to his personal blog this weekend that Fusion Garage's attorney has filed to be taken off the case because the company has not paid him and the relationship had become strained beyond repair.
Fusion Garage public relations company, McGrath/Power, dropped Fusion Garage earlier this year.
The signs are pretty clear: everybody involved with Fusion Garage is running away, the company is embroiled in lawsuits, the brand name is tarnished beyond repair and the one thing that could save it, the product, is insufficient.
The old guard of TechCrunch employees are reveling in Fusion Garage's woes. Arrington said, "Fusion Garage finally destroying itself certainly makes me happy. The fact that Quinn Emanuel and PR firm McGrath Power, who advised Fusion Garage on the right way to execute on the fraud, are left with unpaid bills also makes me happy. I'm sorry to the customers who tried to pre-order these things and may never see their money again. But, really, what were you thinking?"
At this point, there is probably nothing Fusion Garage can do to avoid the inevitable collapse. Call it progress, call it revenge, call it whatever you like. In 10 years, Fusion Garage, the CrunchPad/JooJoo/Grid 10 will be the answer to a trivia question that only a select group of geeks will be able to answer.