Fusion Garage Plans New Tablet Platform

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New York - Tablet startup Fusion Garage of Singapore is going back to the drawing board to develop a second-generation platform that will come to market in the first half of next year in a variety of color touchscreens in sizes up to 12.1 inches, all with Wi-Fi and 3G cellular data.

The company will use the Android OS kernel and select Android drivers to build what Fusion founder and CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan said would "lead to the birth of a new operating system."  The OS would have its own APIs and deliver enhancements -- including improved multitasking -- unavailable on current Android-based phones and tablets, the iPhone and iPad, and Windows Phone 7 devices.

Current tablets and smartphones, Rathakrishnan noted, multitask in much the same way as Windows PCs, minimizing one application while maximizing, and that's after a user hits the device's home-screen button. Fusion's new OS, on the other hand, will deliver multitasking "in a way to help the flow of activities" and enable users "to work with both apps simultaneously."

 The new OS will also take a key feature of the Kindle and Nook e-readers, which enable users to resume reading a book on one device at the point where they left off on another -- and extend it to all apps, functions and features, including web browsing, video playback and music playback, Rathakrishnan said. "The state of the application will be preserved from one [Fusion Garage] device to the other" as well as to PCs and Macs, he explained.

The new devices will replace the company's current Joojoo tablet, available to end users through


.  They'll also differ markedly from the current models in several ways. The current model, for example, lacks onboard apps and memory storage and uses a proprietary Linux-based OS that relies on Internet connections to access cloud-based apps and services via on-screen icons. The cloud-based apps and services include Pandora, Google Documents, Hulu, YouTube, Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, AOL Music, Last.fm, the IMBD database, Gmail, Hotmail, LinkedIn, and web portals with Adobe Flash support.

"After the iPad launch, we realized our vision [for Joojoo] was premature and that we needed a hybrid approach that also addressed our shortcomings."

 He also called the March 2010 launch of the original Joojoo tablet "premature" because the company's Linux-based OS proved to be unstable, although a software update later became available, he said.

The new Fusion devices will not use the Joojoo name, he noted.

Other features of the new devices will include video chat over Wi-Fi and 3G, an e-reader app, and possibly hard keyboards, but Rathakrishnan declined to say if any of the devices would include circuit-switched cellular voice calling.

The new models will also download Android-based apps from a proprietary app store. The apps could include Android apps already available on the Android Marketplace and ported without changes to the Fusion store. Developers could also optimize their Android Marketplace apps for use on larger screen Fusion devices, he said.

Development of the new devices is underway now that the company is closing on its third round of funding, bringing total invested capital to $10 million. The company is will expand to 60 employees by the end of the year, from 14.

The capital investments exclude capital provided by Malaysian-based cellphone maker CSL Group, which pays for the manufacturing costs of Fusion devices in return for royalties on the sale of each device.

Fusion said it is already in discussions with U.S. retailers and carriers to carry the new devices.

Rathakrishnan envisions smartphones and tablet coexisting, with smartphones positioned as delivering "convenient access to anything" and tablets intended for extended use mainly to consume media and communicate but secondarily for using productivity applications, such as writing school papers, when docked with a keyboard.

"The iPad has shown the use case," he exclaimed. "Consumers' main digital device at home and on the go will be the tablet." At home and work, laptops and PCs will be the main productivity device, he noted.


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