I expected to have a post titled “JooJoo a GoGo” a couple weeks ago, but they just won’t take my order.

The JooJoo is a tablet device, most commonly compared to the iPad. Due to its rocky history and the fact it comes from an unknown startup, it probably won’t make much of a splash in the marketplace; but for some reason I’ve decided the device is right for me!

I tried to pre-order it form their site, the only way to get one, but their site didn’t work. I wrote them and got a message back that said they are “experiencing heavy load” (ha!) and I should be able to try again “within 7 days”. It still didn’t work after 7 days, nor after another 7 days. It’s now out of pre-order, supposedly shipping, and could be arriving at a lucky few people’s doors starting today; and I still can’t order. Based on comments in the tech blogs I’m not the only one stuck in limbo.

So I did some sleuthing. First some basic chronology and facts:

  • 10-Feb-2010: I created an account on their site.
  • 10-Mar-2010: I first tried to order (and have continued trying daily since).
  • 10-Mar-2010: (later that same day) they announced a much improved interface and offline video playback.
  • 11-Mar-2010: It hit the FCC, showing off various goodies inside.
  • 17-Mar-2010: I sent message and received answer from feedback@thejoojoo.com.
  • 22-Mar-2010: Changed from “Pre-Order” to “Order”, which was interpreted as “now shipping”.
  • 26-Mar-2010: I created yet another account¬† just to see if my account was at issue.
  • 29-Mar-2010: (Today) I still can’t order as other are getting theirs (cry).

Poking around I’ve found the following:

  • When you click to edit your profile it gives you a number in the URL which appears to be a sequential user number. My first account was #1097 and the second was #1769. (I actually did do a third account somewhere in the middle, but I can’t find the credentials right now – the date and account # was somewhere in between the other two)
  • When you go to edit your profile it shows an internal last status string. For example, if you have just logged in it will say “Logged in successfully”.

The site isn’t collecting names and addresses, except when you place an order (unless you are outside the US and want to be notified when they are being sold abroad).¬† This leads me to believe that a relatively high percentage of accounts are associated with an order being placed. (Yes, I’m a one-off exception, having signed up a month before trying to order, and having created 2 other useless accounts). My guess is they would be creating roughly account #1450 the day I started trying to pre-order. This would also be the time frame in which I would guess they had pre-sold their 1,000th device. So my first theory is that they only made up to 1,000 of them in the first run, and are just handling their prospective new customers poorly. The more insidious version is they are praying for decent enough reviews so their investors don’t shut them down tomorrow.

My other theory has to do with payment. As some background, in December when they started taking pre-orders someone pointed out that they were violating PayPal’s rules (VII.4.i.7) with such a lengthy delivery time. Today when you try to order it fails after you enter your address information and before starting a PayPal transaction. If you then click on the edit profile link it shows the status of “Could not connect to PayPal”. So, either they disconnected/broke their own system at the point where they link to PayPal, or PayPal has cut them off. This isn’t necessarily inconsistent with the first theory, but in any case it doesn’t look good.

I included three points in the chronology where the JooJoo got positive press. It’s a shame, they may have missed out on about 350 orders, all early adopters and generally the kind of people can become evangelists.

As we approach the iPad launch date and the apps screenshots start leaking out, the iPad seems more like a capable and worthy device. I just can’t abide the claustrophobia I feel whenever I’m working in Apple’s universe. Since nobody else has a product shipping before June its the JooJoo for me or bust.

I think I’m being forced to go with “bust”. Damn.

Update #1: Today the JooJoo website did update some images, but ordering still doesn’t work.

Update #2: Fascinating new info from an Engadget article – only 90 pre-orders were made by Feb 11th! Could they have started their sequential number at 1000, or perhaps it is a 10-to-1 order rate? Also it seems PayPal did cut them off. And there is lots of good legal source material, but I can’t find any other bombshell nuggets. All told, its several more nails in the coffin. I’m never going to touch a JooJoo.