News of a $150 Android tablet selling at Kmart lured pennywise shoppers to the retailer’s electronics departments in droves – at virtually every location. Not all of us made it in time, discovering that the GenTouch 78 had sold out on a Sunday and that Kmart was issuing rain checks as soon as Tuesday. That’s one popular product. But for those of us unlucky shoppers who took the time to browse the Kmart shelves as long as we were in the store, another budget Augen was there to allieve our pain…temporarily.
The Genbook 74 was just $99, and what Android lover wouldn’t want to give this bargain netbook a shot? As many of you already know, my hopes for this gadget were quickly dashed thanks to poor performance and ultra-chinsey hardware. What can you expect for $99, really? But aside from the non-responsive OS and ridiculously unusable trackpad, I was really disappointed to see that I couldn’t even download apps from the Android Market. I could search for them, I could read their descriptions, but I couldn’t download them. I figured that this was just another instance of Google turning up late at the “new device switch” – my own lay understanding of how new Androids are given entry into the Market. This was not the case at all.
The folks at LaptopMag.com were curious about the status of this situation, and took their questions to Google, receiving an official response:
“Augen included proprietary Google software in their product via an unauthorized vendor. Google only licenses its software to partners and OHA [Open Handset Alliance] members directly.”
Of course the next logical question then is why on Earth did Augen go ahead and install Google’s proprietary apps and ship large batches of offending products off to retailers? Augen CEO Gary Gofman recently responded to this concern with a public statement, part of which reads:
“the Google Mobile Service and Android Apps were pre installed during the development process on our tablets for testing purposes, and were not removed unintentionally before releasing the products in the market place. Google and Augen came to a mutual understanding that the Google Mobile Services Application Suite pre-installed on the GENTOUCH/ GENBOOK Series; could not be removed due to technological constraints for the products that were sold, shipped, or already produced. For future production runs and deliveries, Augen will block and remove the Google Mobile Services Application Suite from the current devices until further notice.”
As LAPTOP points out, Augen doesn’t appear to have implied support for proprietary Google apps in any of their advertizing. All of Augen’s references to a market appear to be promotions of their own, private market, which has roughly 2,000 apps. I wish I could find a photo of the Genbook’s original packaging online, because I think I recall a YouTube icon on the screen of the netbook pictured on the front of the box. I do have some video leftover from my unboxing of the Genbook 74, which was never published because I couldn’t achieve enough functionality for an unboxing/hands-on video. I could be wrong, but I think I see a YouTube icon in the upper-left side of the screen in the photo on the front of the box. If that’s what I’m looking at, I think Augen needs to rethink their packaging design. If not because the app doesn’t work at all, then because they aren’t authorized to market their products as shipping with Google’s proprietary apps.
Below is Gary Gofman’s statement in its entirety:
Florida- August 07, 2010 – Augen Electronics Corp., an innovator of tablet pc’s, netbooks, and eReaders, would like to deliver the following statement to address the circulating media gossip regarding Augen’s preloaded apps.
On July, 29 2010 Augen had a constructive conversation with Google Inc. The topic of the discussion was Google’s Application Suite. As you know, Google Inc. has released the source code for the entire Android platform under the flexible and commercial-friendly Apache 2.0 open source license. Augen is free to use that open source code; however, the suite of applications comprising Google Mobile Services on Android are proprietary to Google and have not been released under open source licenses. The Google Mobile Service and Android Apps were pre installed during the development process on our tablets for testing purposes, and were not removed unintentionally before releasing the products in the market place.
Google and Augen came to a mutual understanding that the Google Mobile Services Application Suite pre-installed on the GENTOUCH/ GENBOOK Series; could not be removed due to technological constraints for the products that were sold, shipped, or already produced.
For future production runs and deliveries, Augen will block and remove the Google Mobile Services Application Suite from the current devices until further notice. We are currently in communication with Google Inc. to obtain the required licensing for upcoming products, and will announce in our future statements the timelines and availability of these products as it will become available to us. However, for your convenience Augen will add applications to accommodate the absence of the Google Mobile Services Application Suite.
OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU…
The future of Augen holds a key to develop market conscious products with a vision of delivering the latest and emerging technologies, being available and affordable to every household, big/small corporation in the United States of America and worldwide.
We are at the final stages of releasing an entire new line of products which incorporates the newest technology and concepts, that will make a difference in your every day lives. We encourage you our Gen Nation, to follow the exciting products that Augen will be unveiling in the very near future. We are here to put the world at your fingertips and take you beyond the realm of the market that exists today, bringing you with us into a new era of open world communication and computing.
We are a US based company and understand and incorporate your wishes, desires, and requirements in our company’s DNA. We are here for you and are looking for your continued support, and excitement in our current and future releases.
Augen Electronics Corp.