You have to have some sympathy for the makers of the just-released tablet device everyone is talking about — no, I’m talking about the JooJoo, Fusion Garage’s new tablet… thing. Or perhaps sympathy is the wrong word… pity? Disdain? Schadenfreude, anyone?

You probably know the story… the JooJoo began as the Crunchpad, brainchild of TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, and was being co-developed by Singapore-based Fusion Garage. Until things went sour, that is, and Fusion Garage ended up running with the device on its own. Along with upcoming tablets like the Windows 7-based HP Slate and the Pixel Qi-sporting Notion Ink Adam, the JooJoo has been positioned in the minds (and pants) of many a gadget geek as an alternative to Apple’s hated iPad.

Well, whether the karma of Fusion Garage’s allegedly shifty business practices or the fate of releasing the JooJoo so close to the iPad’s launch is more to blame — or, more likely, shortcomings in time, funding and vision — the JooJoo is here, and Engadget’s review is none too flattering. Half-baked touch features, cumbersome interface conventions and poor performance playing Flash video are only a few of the gripes they have, but the JooJoo’s real weakness is its concept.

The idea of a fast, light and cheap tablet designed solely for Web browsing might have made sense two years ago, when the Crunchpad was conceived and the iPhone app juggernaut was in its infancy. Even today, a Web-only tablet for $200 (the original price target of the Crunchpad) would appeal to many people turned off by the iPad’s $500+ price tag. But a $500 price tag is indeed what the JooJoo has, and for that price, people expect not only the usual email, music, photo and video playback, but apps, apps, apps. (At least it doesn’t run Windows.)

Given that the JooJoo doesn’t even get the Web part right, it’s hard to imagine that it has much of a future. Unless, of course, the rest of the un-Apple tablets fail to deliver just as spectacularly, in which case it might live on in a misfits’ gallery of also-rans. Stay tuned!

» Fusion Garage JooJoo review (Engadget)

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