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i-mate boss blames 'fraud' for company's demise

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Jim Morrison, CEO of premium Windows Mobile manufacturer i-mate, has claimed that a $15m fraud is what killed the company, rather than any failure to sell enough phones.

The ever-vocal Mr Morrison told Arabian Business that an un-named board member was behind the fraud which killed the company, and that he won't be taking it lying down: "This is the first time I have ever wanted to murder someone. Eight years of my life I put into this. Personally I have lost about $6m, cash."

The CEO told the paper that the fraud had cost i-mate $15m, and that's why it's had to close its offices and is laying off staff - though one can't help wondering if the company didn't need to sell a few more handsets too.

While maintaining the firm's closure was not inevitable despite the fraud, Morrison told the paper that it would be wound down, and he would open a new company in due course.

i-mate spent most of 2008 denying it was in trouble, and dropped off the Alternative Investment Market just under a year ago as the shares became worthless. That was down to short-selling, according to Morrison, and part of the fraud against the company.

In February this year the company still managed to launch a new handset aimed at the niche that wants Windows Mobile but in a rugged form.

i-mate started out branding phones from HTC, back when HTC didn't care whose name appeared on the box. Since then HTC has woken up to the value of brand recognition and is making a name for itself, while i-Mate dealt with various suppliers to create its own range of handsets.

Some of the i-mate devices border on laptop replacements, but the last decent models were launched in February 2008 and have been seriously discounted over the last few weeks by UK retailer Expansys among others.

We've been trying to contact the company to confirm the details, but there's nobody home. Jim Morrison is reportedly back in the UK and we're sure we'll hear more from him soon - he's not the kind of chap who keeps to himself.

Being a small-scale supplier isn't easy in a business where economy of scale is everything, and while fraud is a more exciting notion, it's hard to imagine that competing in a market that HTC and Samsung have a stated intention to own was ever going to be a winning strategy. ®

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