Monday, February 18, 2008

Carl Freer: Gizmondo Arrives Late 2008

Here is a translated version of Hans Sandberg's second interview with Carl Freer. The Swedish version of the article was published by the business news site on February 18, 2008.

Carl Freer (right) and his Gizmondo Co-Pilot 

Mikael Ljungman in New York City.  Photo: Hans Sandberg

The relaunch of Gizmondo has been delayed to the second half of 2008, but Carl Freer reassures
that it will happen, and that the new version will improve on the 2005 model. His ”Co-Pilot” Mikael Ljungman travels to China this week, where he and Ian Murphy from Plextek will go over the manufacturing setup. 

We met Carl Freer at a SoHo hotel on February 5th together with James Hunt, the independent investigator for the U.K. liquidators, and the Swedish businessman Mikael Ljungman. James Hunt was in town to ask Mikael Ljungman about transactions between some of his previous companies and Gizmondo Europe.

“I had outstanding questions, most likely uncomfortable, and I wanted answers to those questions. We got together and had a long discussion, and I’m perfectly satisfied, and I can state that satisfaction on behalf of the liquidator,” James Hunt says.

Mikael Ljungman is working with mobile communications and has cooperated with Carl Freer since 2002, but was hard hit financially when Gizmondo crashed. On top of that, he was pursued by Sweden’s legal authorities and tax authorities because of alleged connections to the “Uppsala Mafia” (in quotes, because the Swedish usage of the term “Maffia” has very little to do with the way it’s used in the U.S. Stefan Eriksson’s gang from the 1990’s, which Carl Freer never was a part of, consisted of a handful of small-town criminals, brazen maybe, but no real Mafia). He was convicted for tax fraud and bookkeeping errors, and his company was forced into bankruptcy as business dried up. Today he is challenging his conviction in a higher court, and works with Carl Freer, both on the Gizmondo-project and Blowfish Works.

Mikael Ljungman will travel to China this week, where he and Ian Murphy from Plextek are to go over the manufacturing setup with Gizmondo’s partner in Shenzhen, China.

Mikael Ljungman's business was badly hurt in the 
Gizmondo crash, but he sticks with Carl Freer, and is 
helping him to setup operations in China.  
Photo: Hans Sandberg

”Mikael is my Co-Pilot on this project. He has been an absolutely indispensable asset in putting the Chinese manufacturing together. Lots of shareholders will have a lot to thank him for, because without a manufacturer, how could I bankroll this? Where would I get $300 million for components?”

What’s happening with the reintroduction of the Gizmondo? When I met Carl Freer on October 19th, he said that the Gizmondo would be out by May of 2008, and a widescreen version by the end of the year, but he now admits that he was being too optimistic.

Are you on target?
“I can’t say, because I don’t know. We have every indication that we are on target, but I don’t know until all factory and manufacturing issues are solved. What I can say is that we will have the product by the end of 2008, but I can’t say if it is the third or fourth quarter.”

As far as the Chinese manufacturer goes, he says that he cannot reveal its name yet.
“We have a slightly unusual relationship with the Chinese manufacturer, because of its interest in distributing the product domestically. They are very reluctant to make any statements until they’ve completed their own launch plan. If it weren’t for this, I would be on the phone now saying that we need the statement tomorrow, because it is very important, but we have to respect them,” he says.

Carl Freer and Tiger Telematics/Gizmondo will not profit directly from the Chinese launch, but they will benefit from the excitement and an ad distribution deal connected to Gizmondo. Gizmondo’s Chinese customers will be offered the advertising package, which is based on the SmartAdds technology.

The new version of Gizmondo will have a more advanced version of the custom made chip nVidia developed for Gizmondo, and Gizmondo’s AR-technology has improved drastically and become much more realistic, according to Carl Freer. He also says that they have fixed the problem with the battery-life, which turned out to be a programming problem.

Carl Freer’s strategy for Gizmondo II seems much more cautious than the spectacular launch in the Autumn of 2005. He keeps a lower profile, and hopes that his alliance with the his Chinese partner will make it possible to relaunch the product with what he calls a ”grassroot strategy”. But first he needs to get the owners to agree to a restructuring of Tiger Telematics, a company that over time most likely will merge with or change name to Gizmondo. He doesn’t think it’s going to be very hard to convince the board, and notes that some of his former enemies, including the British financier Joe Marten (who had threatened to sue Freer and played a part in the attempt to push him out of Xero Mobile) has buried the hatchet. In addition, Blowfish Works and Xero Mobile, have come to peace, according to Carl Freer. (We tried to confirm this with Xero Mobile, but we have as of now not received any answer).

The largest weight upon Carl Freer’s shoulders is the bad reputation he and Gizmondo earned after the crash and bankruptcy in the winter of 2005/2006. He repeats that his attempt to clear his name will ultimately depend on his success in his project, but he has also hired the PR-firm Sitrick & Company, who are specialists in helping companies and individuals that have got in trouble with the media. It was Sitrick that recommended him to contact a serious journalist, and that now is preparing a speaking tour for Carl Freer to a number of technical universities.
”I’m going to be a very busy man in 2008,” Carl Freer says and laughs.

Hans Sandberg

Click here to read a translation of the first interview with Carl Freer since the Gizmondo crash.

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