TabCo revealed – Welcome the Grid10 and GridOS

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Over the last two years tablets have become the new buzz in computing. They have elbowed netbooks to the side and are beginning to nibble away at the low-end desktop and notebook markets. The newest entry to the field was revealed when “TabCo” unmasked itself to be Fusion Garage. Some of you will remember them as the company that launched the “JooJoo” tablet several months back to less than great reviews and low sales.

So, after many months of mysterious and entertaining ads and marketing gimmicks Singapore-based, Fusion Garage’s  CEO, Chandra Rathakrishnan took to the stage and introduced two new products, a smartphone (Grid 4) and a tablet (Grid 10), based on the company’s GridOS operating system.

I’m going to be writing about the tablet and a bit about the rest of the tablet landscape for this piece and leave their smartphone for another rainy afternoon. This isn’t a review though, as I’ve yet to see a Grid 10 other than in the videos and pictures on the Fusion Garage website.  I’m also going to leave the comments of how it looks to people who care more deeply about such things…I’m a function over form guy If it does what I want it can have a tartan bezel and orange and green stripes on the back and still make me happy (unfortunately, the same goes for my wardrobe).

The hardware specs are nice, but pretty much the standard nowadays for the “power” Android tablets (not to be confused with the inexpensive tablets that are being sold in the sub $200 range). It’s got a nice 10.1″ HD display, solid CPU (Tegra II) rear-facing camera for video calls, about the same amount of RAM and storage, micro SD port, etc. There’s nothing leading edge going on here, but there’s nothing wrong with what they’re including either…I’m sure it’ll perform on par with the Samsung 10.1, Motorola Xoom, Asus Transporter, Acer Iconia, Apple iPad 2 and the HP TouchPad.

What sets the Grid 10 apart? It’s the operating system, GridOS, well more specifically the user interface as GridOS is based on the Android kernel. This means that it will/should natively run Android Apps (and Adobe’s Flash). How many of the Android Apps remains to be seen as even the pure Android tablets don’t run all of the available apps. But this is no ordinary Android tablet – on top of Android they have created a user interface that was obviously the work of some talented graphical artists. They call it a “stunning visual experience”, to me it looks nice, but whether it will offer a better, faster or more intuitive way to bring the content I want to the screen remains to be seen.

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One of the Grid 10's features is "The Wheel".

The primary application on any tablet is its browser. Fusion Garage opted not to use the standard Android Browser and created their own full-screen affair that has no fixed menu bar. Rather, upon a gesture an on-screen wheel will appear allowing you to select options and other active tabs. It looks like it will be easy to navigate, but anyone reading this site knows that what looks great in a demo might not be so wonderful in our hands.

All of the other expected apps (mail, music/video player, maps, calendar, contacts and photo gallery) are included. There’s also video phone app that will connect to anyone with an active web browser. It appears that they have combined updates from social networking services like facebook, twitter, etc. into an app they call “Heartbeat”. I believe that the Wheel that I briefly described will also be the primary interface system for all of their other built-in apps. I can foresee some issues when users begin switching back and forth between Android apps that use their own UI and the Grid10’s native system.

The pricing is the same as the current iPads with the 16GB WiFi model selling for $499 and the 3G/4G model priced at $599 and $100 more than the comparable HP TouchPad or Asus Transformers.

All in all I was a bit disappointed today. I don’t think the Grid10 will be bad, but it didn’t hit my “must buy” list.

So, for tablet followers like me…what’s next? Rumors have this fall bringing us official announcement of Android’s new 4.0 operating system named “Ice Cream Sandwich” and early 2012 should be about right for Apple to unveil the iPad 3.  I also expect that we’ll start to hear more about Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Apple’s next generation of MacOSX both of which promise to push towards a seamless experience between our desktops, notebooks, tablets and phones.

Should be interesting…especially if any of them can figure out a way to bring a reasonable method of text input to tablets (my thumbs are getting tired!).

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