CherryPal: Vaporware? Or just delayed?

Posted by Samantha Rose Hunt

Chicago (IL) – We are starting to be quite skeptical as to whether or not the CherryPal $250 PC is too good to be true. There have been so many delays and open questions that we suspect this might be a candidate for Vaporware 2008 awards. But then it might just be delayed. According to the manufacturer, CherryPals have been delivered to some customers. But there is no information who and where those buyers are.   

Last week, when I wrote that the CherryPal PC had begun shipping on November 4, I had still yet to receive my own PC, and I also noticed that individuals who left comments below the article were also waiting for their ordered units. It was about that time when I felt that I had waited enough - the device was promised to ship in late July or early August initially and was planned to be selling in volume through Amazon by now - and I decided to look into this matter.

Some readers may recall the enormous initial buzz that surrounded the CherryPal. Besides TG Daily, the company was able to secure coverage with Cnet, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, PC World, Engadget and others. We were told the device could ship in “the hundreds of thousands” and would be selling through resellers such as Amazon by the end of the year. And in fact, the CherryPal was pre-selling like crazy, if we believe the company’s partners, but the product has been a no show, as far as we know.
 
Reports about product delays and hardware hiccups came in August and September, and CherryPal executives became less available. For example, the brand manager began providing less and less information to partners and apparently left CherryPal at the end of August. In September, the company promised again to ship the CherryPal PC “soon” without providing an exact shipping date. Since then, there has been virtually no information about the device.

In October, the company informed its “brand angels”, a group of 100 individuals who agreed to be writing about the device, that a major source of funding had backed out leaving the company “high and dry”. However, a new funding source had been secured, the firm said. CherryPal was guaranteeing shipment on Election Day. However, that funding may not have been substantial either as CherryPal was asking its brand angels for potential investor contacts.

CherryPal did not ship on November 4. No CherryPal, no email, no nothing. Discussion boards used by the closed group of brand angels on Ning began to light up and there seemed to be a growing need for more information. Someone had to have their PC by now, right?

With no updates available, we decided it was time to contact CherryPal. We contacted CherryPal’s CEO, Max Seybold, via phone and email and were able to get him on the phone for a quick chat. So, did CherryPals ship or not?

Seybold’s response was simple. On November 4, 1000 units were shipped, he said. There were no specifics as to who received these PCs, whether brand angels or paying customers.

Seybold went back to explaining CherryPal’s problems, beginning with a funding issue - even though the company had told us that there were software compatibility issues and necessary upgrades. He explained that, back in April, he had been introduced to a group of individuals residing in the United Kingdom that were Indians from Uganda. Seybold said they had a strong interest in investing in the CherryPal PC and he had received a firm commitment with this group of individuals to float a support center in Uganda. This would be done in an effort to create jobs.

CherryPal had government backing. PC’s would be distributed to schools and the government. Sounds compelling. But when the time came for the money to land in the hands of Seybold and CherryPal, the investors couldn’t come up with the funds, he told me. Seybold then took it upon himself to raise funds via traditional methods, and that included the 25 most recent “angel investors” the company took on.

Seybold claims that the company has working capital at this time. However, since everything is a cash business, the company had trouble recruiting, hiring, and purchasing materials to make its PCs. I asked why CherryPal did not highlight and promote its program in Uganda. Seybold declined to comment.

Regarding the product launch, Seybold admitted that CherryPal “could have done a better job, hindsight is 20/20”. He claims that CherryPal did everything to communicate effectively, and that everyone who sent an e-mail to the company received an answer and anyone who wanted a refund received it. Our conversation closed with Seybold admitting that the company had not anticipated such huge demand at launch and the company was genuinely not prepared.

He also stated that due to the lengthy wait, individuals who have yet to receive their PC will be receiving items such as “free upgrades to the laptop, and access to additional services”. In terms of the refund issue, we were able to track down one buyer, who complained that she did not receive answers to her numerous emails to CherryPal. She asked her money to be refunded when she heard that the CherryPal units were sold out. However, she also noted that she has not heard from anyone who actually had received a device.  

We were not able to find one of the 1000 buyers who, according to Seybold, received a CherryPal.

So, will there be CherryPal PCs or not for those who pre-ordered the devices? In the end, there was no clear answer to this question. But this also means that it is at least uncertain when or if customers will be receiving their CherryPals. And we haven’t even talked about the far more complex software and server side of the technology. There is no information on whether this part is working.

As of now, the unit can still be ordered from CherryPal’s website, with a note that the device will ship on November 4 “guaranteed”.   

It is a bit early to call the CherryPal vaporware. In the end, the initial ship date has “only” been missed by about four months so far. But I do have to say that the silence around the device is creepy. If the device in fact is still on a rollout schedule, I would hope that CherryPal would be providing its customers with an appropriate information flow.