TechCrunch may be famous for running stories of dubious reliability, but this one is for sure. AOL has acquired the blogging network that covers sites like TechCrunch proper, Mobile Crunch, and Crunch Base. Much as they did with the acquisition of Weblogs Inc., AOL looks to be taking a hands-off approach to the TechCrunch network. "TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence..." said AOL in the press release.
No one is talking directly about price, but many have been floating numbers in the tens of millions. Some estimates go as high as $75 million. It is unclear if TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington will stay or go, but most observers are betting on 'go". After all, it's a pretty big payday. TechCrunch writers will reportedly split a small amount of stock, which will make for a nice bit of walking around money too.
AOL has been busily transforming into a content company over the last few years, and this is just one more example of that process. Having Engadget and TechCrunch under one roof makes AOL a real force online.
The JooJoo has gone through some changes since it ceased to be the CrunchPad when the partnership of Arrington and Fusion Garage broke down. Among those changes is a new home screen UI and improved virtual keyboard. There’s also expanded codec support for playing local media.
The old home screen was sort of a disaster. The background was a solid color and the icons were black tiles with various website logos in them. Then there was the confusing pinch to go back gesture. The new set up is much improved with high resolution user customizable backgrounds and much more attractive icons. The pinch gesture has been replaced with a more intuitive swipe.
The new keyboard can be used in a smaller one-handed mode that can be moved around the screen, or in full screen mode. It also fully supports multitouch complete with chording (registering multiple simultaneous presses). We’re also hearing you can plug in mass storage and play almost any video format under the sun including AVI, DivX/XviD, MKV, MPEG-4, and MOV. The JooJoo is set to ship later this month. At $499 it’s priced the same as the low end iPad. Is anyone planning to pick one up?
There’s good news, and there’s good news in the latest leaked figures on Kindle ownership. While Amazon is a bit tight-lipped on the subject, with Jeff Bezos only admitting to “millions of people” owning Kindles, TechCrunch is reporting the number of those millions to be three.
Michael Arrington, who’s checked with this “amazingly accurate” sources, reports that the three million number was hit sometime in December, before the release of the global Kindle, and Amazon’s “free” Kindle offer.
Why double-good news? First, because this gives Amazon a distinct early market presence, which can have a snowball effect. (If all you see are Kindles, why by a Nook?) Second, because Amazon might well need this presence to weather the introduction Apple’s iPad into the market. For no other reason than its cachet value, the iPad will sell, and when the initial frenzy is over Kindle has a good chance of still being there.
Arrington’s lawsuit claims “Fraud and Deceit, Misappropriation of Business Ideas, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Unfair Competition and Violations of the Lanham Act.” The suit seeks both damages and an injunction against Fusion Garage’s marketing the JooJoo, which Arrington says is built on intellectual property that is part his.
Arrington also offers potential JooJoo pre-buyers a warning: Fusion Garage is broke, so any payments you make for a JooJoo will probably be used to defend the lawsuit, not produce you a nifty tablet computer. So beware...beware!
And, as a parting shot, the bio for Rathakrishnan at CrunchBase has been changed to add: “Chanda is also a patent holder in the area of operating systems, possibly for the custom OS that can be found on Fusion Garage’s soon-to-be failure of a tablet named the JooJoo.”
The quick-and-dirty of the tale is this: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch announced the death of the CrunchPad on November 30. He related the cause of death to be Rathakrishnan and unnamed investors who decided they would be better off without Arrington’s participation. In Arrington’s view he’s part owner of the intellectual property behind the CrunchPad, so without some agreement on terms Fusion Garage wouldn’t have a product to sell.
Rathakrishnan struck back today. Not only is Fusion Garage prepared to produce and sell the 12.1-inch web tablet, it is planning to do so this week. Rathakrishnan also clarified the cause of the TechCrunch-Fusion Garage break-up to be Arrington, who Rathakrishnan says “was completely unable to deliver.”
The background probably isn’t as important as the product itself. Details are limited, but the JooJoo will have a 12.1-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, ebook capability, the ability to deliver full HD video, and, according to Rathakrishnan, “the fastest bootup sequence out there.” It will also cost $499, more than double what Arrington had projected.
Whether the JooJoo will see the light of day is another matter. Come Friday we’ll have a better idea on where this little saga goes next.