People are beginning to wonder if Max Seybold's sandwich-sized wonder machine really exists.
The CherryPal CEO says his 2-watt
thin client cloud PC finally shipped on November 4, after months of delays. But a chorus of CherryPal "Brand Angels" - Web 2.0 denizens enlisted to promote the product in the blogosphere - say they've yet to see any hardware.
"I know I'm not alone in suspecting that all the promises of shipments and funding up until now were a ruse - as far as I can tell, there's not a single CherryPal computer out in the wild yet, and I'm starting to doubt that there'll ever be," one Brand Angel says on a private social network the company may or may not have set up for these blog-happy reviewers.
Seybold has fashioned his Mountain View-based operation as a mashup of every buzzphase now gripping the minds of the worldwide digerati, from cloud computing to green tech to, yes, user generated content. Each Brand Angel was promised a free cloudy, green machine - and perhaps free stock options - in exchange for some online viral marketing. But the Brand Angel social network includes 106 members, and none say they've received a system.
In June, the CherryPal CEO told The Reg that his Freescale-powered mini-machine would outpace both your Vista desktop and your beloved Macintosh. And little more than a month later, the startup began taking pre-orders at $249 a pop, telling buyers that units would ship within a matter of days.
Seybold and company promised a 10.5-ounce box that moves "most of the software and data that traditionally sits on the desktop to the Internet." The unit would include a small solid state drive, but it would also tap into data and services sitting on Amazon's S3 cloud.
Have you seen me?
Then the company said a snafu involving its graphics hardware would push shipments back at least two weeks. Then two months passed. But Seybold insisted his mystery machine would finally make its debut on November 4, US election day.
While the world was waiting, he sent a Halloween missive to his Brand Angels, explaining that he "needed to raise funds ASAP." Apparently, "a firm and binding funding agreement with a UK based African-born family" fell through and CherryPal was left "high and dry."
A week after election day, Seybold sent another email announcing that funding had been secured - and that some Angels had already received their CherryPals:
Some of you already got the C114 shipped and some of you will have to wait a couple more days, unfortunately. We received some nice volume orders from the UK as well as from a government organization in Africa and needed to satisfy them first. I also have to admit, we needed the cash. Speaking of cash, we got commitment from 25 Angel investors end of last week [sic], YAHOOOOOOO. Despite the grim economic environment we were able to convince wome [sic] hardcore green computing enthusiasts to join us on our journey. More to come.
But two more weeks have passed, and no one on the Angel says they have hardware. Yes, none of these people actually paid for a machine. But considering they were wooed specifically to promote CherryPal, you'd think the company would be motivated to keep them happy.
Yesterday, Seybold told The Reg that on November 4, he shipped 1,000 machines and that 150 of them went to Brand Angels. By his count, there are about 300 Angels in total. "Our communication policy is very open. I think it's quite normal that the negative voices are louder than the positives ones," he said. "I think it is a problem that will go away pretty soon."
We asked Seybold to put us in touch with Brand Angels or customers who have received the product - and he said he would try - but we've yet to hear back.
Seybold says that CherryPal is not associated with the Brand Angel discussion group. But multiple Angels tell us that when they signed up for the program, they received a link to the group from the company's "Brand Angel Manager."
Meanwhile, Freesof cale confirms that CherryPal is "a customer," but it won't say how many its low-powered processors have been shipped to the company. "At the very least, they needed samples to design the product," a spokesman says. ®