Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Will ZaReason's second tablet also be a dud?

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Will ZaReason's second tablet also be a dud? Featured
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A company that last year put on sale an Android tablet that turned out to be a dud is marketing a new model this year - and using most of the same marketing spiel from 2012 to try and sell it.

ZaReason, a small company in California, released a tablet in 2012 which it called the ZaTab. The processor used in this device, the Allwinner A10 SoC, turned out to be an issue as it has a habit of becoming unresponsive for minutes at a time.

Additionally, the wireless connectivity was flaky and the tablet seemed to have a mind of its own when it came to the auto-rotate feature. It was extremely annoying to use.

When iTWire reviewed the device last September, and sought the company's response about these issues, it promised a fix in the shape of a firmware update. Curiously, this review, the only comprehensive one done by someone who had access to a device is not listed on the company's website.

When the chief executive of the company, Cathy Malmrose, was asked about the promised fix in February this year, she blamed the supplier, saying "We weren't able to make any improvements to the existing firmware so we don't expect to release an update but it isn't for lack of trying.

"The chip manufacturers have not been co-operating releasing updated sources. Manufacturing is a very closed business in general and it's dangerous for us (F/LOSS, everyone really) to have manufacturing so centralised in only one area of the world.

"The end goal is for ZaReason to either have its own factories or joint-ownership of factories in countries governed by laws that can be upheld, i.e. we can get the source."

The ZaTab cost $US349 and with shipping to Australia it came to $A425. One of the items promised with this was a detailed manual, written by Carla Schroder, one of the best Linux writers in the US. "User Manual is being completed by an O'Reilly author, Carla Schroder. All orders will receive manual in print or e-book when it has been printed," the site claimed.  That manual was never sent to those who bought the tablet.

But now, ZaReason has put on sale a second tablet, the ZaTab ZT2, (the rear view of which is seen above) again styling it as the "first open and hackable" device. Obviously, the processor maker wasn't all that unco-operative as the second tablet has a chip from the same company - the Allwinner A31 SoC (4-core CPU, 8-core GPU).

There is obviously no mention of the dud that came out last year and was never fixed.

In keeping with trends, the price for the second tablet is now down by $US50. But what kind of tablet has been produced this time is unknown. And given the company's history of unloading duds and then avoiding responsibility, one is wary of dealing with it.

Comment was  sought from the company as to why it is using the same spiel to try and sell a second model when the first was a dud and also why buyers of the first have been left in the lurch.

Malmrose responded: "Our focus is not on spiels. It's on the R&D of a cool product. Thankfully that gives us customers who are more focused on the specs than on the advertising.

"The ZaTab line is and was the first open and hackable tablet launched. Google wasn't in the game yet. Perhaps you're referring to an open and hackable tablet I'm not aware of?

"That said, your comment makes it obvious that people can misunderstand the ZaTab's position in the tablet world. We updated the product page to avoid confusion.

"This message was sent/received on a holiday weekend. We care deeply about how the AU perceives ZaReason and the work we're trying to accomplish. I would have appreciated time to reply to this."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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