Remember the TabCo videos that were circling a while ago of some new firm having board meetings and writing in the sky over San Francisco? It was actually maverick tablet makers Fusion Garage, who last night held a
pre-recorded 'live' webcast of its unveiling of a new tablet, the Grid10. Please, try to contain your excitement.
From a flashy soundstage somewhere we weren't invited to -- no tech press were -- Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan explained the company's cheeky prank and gave us a look at the new slate.
The Grid10 is a 10.1-inch tablet featuring an LED backlit screen with an impressive HD resolution of 1,366x768 pixels -- that beats the resolution offered on the iPad 2, although if the packs a retina display as we hope, the Grid10 will have to make do with second place. Inside the Grid10 is a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor running at 1.2GHz, teamed with 512MB RAM.
Other handy features include a front-facing camera for video calling, microSD card support and HDMI output.
The party piece -- as it were -- of the Grid10 is the operating system, imaginatively titled GridOS. Rathakrishnan was keen to point out this isn't a skinning ofas we've seen on other tablets such as the , but rather a whole new OS built from the Android kernel. He went on to mock other companies who apparently lack software innovation, calling Android "a red ocean". Whatever that means.
The home screen of GridOS is laid out in a -- you guessed it -- grid fashion. Icons are spread out on this grid, using 'clusters' to group together similar apps in any way you like. The demonstration of this system, while certainly flashy, looked somewhat confusing in the way the user is forced to swipe in any direction across a seemingly infinite landscape of grids.
We hope that in practice the method is somewhat easier, but we still can't help but think that the pages or screens of apps in folders that you'd find on iOS or Android are considerably more user-friendly. There's no physical home button on the Grid10 either, so unless there are swipe gestures that can be used on the home screen, getting back to a central point to get your bearings will be difficult.
Along with applications for viewing media and editing office documents, the Grid10 can run Android apps -- apparently without any redevelopment -- so theoretically you can have access to the thousands of apps on offer. The Grid10 also has a good-looking email client built in, which is a one-up on the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The Web browser shows pages in full screen, doing away with menu bars. Instead, a scroll wheel in the bottom left of the screen allows you to flick through open tabs and a button on the right-hand side allows you to access options. If you highlight text in the browser, another wheel appears allowing you to do a search -- using Bing, not Google -- based on those words.
The standard features of calendars, contact books and maps are there that seem to do as much as you'd expect, albeit with a not unattractive look. GridOS also has a notification centre, called 'Beats', which pulls in updates from various social networks as well as email and calendar reminders.
Is GridOS any good?
We're not quite sure what to think of the Grid10 and GridOS -- the tablet itself looks like decent hardware, with a great resolution screen and an attractive all-glass front.
The software inside offers some decent features, but the interface seemed confusing and at times ill thought-out. Fusion Garage's website for the Grid10 is full of spelling and grammar mistakes, and initially listed the dimensions as 12.2cm wide and 6.4cm high (which would be far too small for a 10-inch slate) and also as 27.4cm by 17.3cm, which seems about what it should be -- although the smaller dimensions have since been removed.
We can't help but think that if the company is so quick to rush out a website to the public with that many glaring errors, it really doesn't bode well for the product when it arrives. The clearly taped launch, complete with Happy Days-style canned applause, didn't engender confidence either.
Rathakrishnan explained that the reason for masquerading as TabCo was to give the Grid10 a fair chance of attracting attention at launch, after the utterly non-entity that was Fusion Garage's previous tablet attempt, the JooJoo.
The Grid10 will be offered in both Wi-Fi-only and 3G versions coming in at $499 (£305) and $599 (£366) respectively. Both models feature 16GB of internal storage.
Pre-orders are open now with a shipping date of 15 September, although there is no word yet on UK availability. It's likely that Fusion Garage will be seeing how the tablet sells in the States before it looks at branching out into other markets. If it does as well as the JooJoo tablet did, the photo above is the nearest you're going to get.
We do hope the tablet at least makes it as far as a UK launch though -- the hardware alone seems pretty neat and we'd like to give GridOS a good test before jumping to too many negative conclusions just yet.
What do you think to the Grid10 -- is it a 10-inch treat or a tough tablet to take? Let us know in the comments section below or over on our Facebook page.