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December 7th, 2009:

Some Good Juju and Some Bad Juju

Bad juju first: When I woke up this morning it was 0, and we had six inches of new snow on the ground. Carol had a physical scheduled for 10:00, so we were out the door extra early, slithering (even in 4WD) in a winter wonderland. We got there and back intact, but it was snowing again when we pulled into the driveway, and the Weather Channel radar indicates that it may be snowing for some time. Given that six inches is close to the limit my little snow blower can handle at one gulp, I decided to get rid of what was there to make way for what was clearly coming. Not too difficult, and I was mostly done when I slipped on a patch of black ice on the driveway and went down hard on my right arm. Here’s hoping an Aleve will minimize the swelling, but I’m expecting some exquisite bruises on that arm, albeit bruises no one will see except Carol given that long-sleeved shirts are the order of the season. Winter began here in early October, and may we be so bold as to demand that it be gone by February?

Probably not; that promising sunspot that popped up for a few days on the far side of the Sun is now gone, and our hundred-year solar minimum continues with no end in sight.

The good juju comes to us mostly from the Engadget blog. A very perceptive post from Niley Patel on Saturday exposes Michael Arrington’s wrath over the Crunchpad coup that supposedly killed the tablet stone dead a week ago. And today several people wrote to tell me that what had been the Crunchpad is now the Joo Joo Tablet, and Arrington’s erstwhile hardware partners Fusion Garage intend to go it on their own. More details over on Gizmodo.

Saturday’s post suggests that Arrington was careless about defining contractual relationships between his firm and Fusion Garage, which is peculiar, considering that Michael Arrington was a lawyer long before he was a blogger or a tech enterpreneur. He registered the trademark for “Crunchpad” only at the end of November, after calling it by that name for well over a year. And now, wowzers, Fusion Garage claims that he never had much to do with the technical development of the device to begin with.

Arrington is threatening wholesale litigation, and the whole thing is starting to smell like greasepaint to me. But think: What better way to launch an unlikely dark horse in the tech world than to foment a media circus? Everybody loves a fight. I see a possible business plan that puts the Underpants Gnomes to shame:

  • Phase 1: Talk for a year or two about a fantastical device and see if anybody notices.
  • Phase 2: If nobody notices by the time the device is ready to sell, pretend to have a riproaring legal fight over who has rights to what.
  • Phase 3: Harvest endless millions of dollars’ worth of free PR while taking pre-orders.
  • Phase 4: Have a group-hug videocast to settle conflicts that never really existed.
  • Phase 5: Profit!

The problems could be real, too, obviously. But there’s something funny going on somewhere, and whereas I won’t order one until I see that it can be configured as an ebook reader (and ideally let somebody else try it first) I still have high hopes. Let’s watch.

Update 12/8/2009: Engadget has a little more detail, and a hands-on video.