A tablet project from TechCrunch, the technology weblog, has officially come to an end, according to the company’s founder Michael Arrington. The device, which was developed in partnership with Fusion Garage, was to be a touch screen Web tablet with the ability to surf the Internet, sold for around $300. Arrington described his vision for the device in 2008 as “a Macbook Air-thin touch screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel.”
Arrignton let loose a stream of frustration over the abrupt end to the CrunchPad’s development, which was scheduled to debut, as a prototype, at the Real-Time Crunchup event in San Francisco on November 20. “The entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication,” Arrington wrote on the Tech Crunch blog. “On November 17, our deadline date for greenlighting the debut three days later, the CEO of our partner on the project, Chandra Rathakrishnan, sent me an email with the subject -no good news'”.
He goes on to describe how Chandra said in the interest of Fusion Garage’s shareholders, the company had decided to move forward with the project without Tech Crunch, which jointly owns the product’s intellectual property and is the sole owner of the CrunchPad trademark. Arrington wrote that he received another email from Chandra, following a phone discussion between the two, that the shareholders remain committed to their decision.
“We’re still completely perplexed as to what happened. We think they were attempting to renegotiate the equity split on the company behind CrunchPad, which was to acquire Fusion Garage,” Arrington wrote. “Renegotiations are always fine. But holding a gun to our head two days before launching and insulting us isn’t the way to do that. We’ve spent the last week and a half trying unsuccessfully to communicate with them. Our calls and emails go unanswered, so we can’t even figure out exactly what’s happened.”
The machine was designed to be very thin and run on low end hardware with a single button for powering it on and off, as well as headphone jacks, a built in video camera, low end speakers, and a microphone. The Crunchpad also integrated Wifi and potentially a USB port, built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM and a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. “What’s really sad about all this is the incredible support we were getting from companies and people around the world to launch this device,” Arrington continued. “A major multi-billion dollar retail partner has been patiently working with us for months, giving advice on manufacturing partners and offering to sell the CrunchPad at a zero margin to help us succeed in the early days.”
The announcement comes at a time when tablet-like devices engineered to offer consumers fast, easy access to the Internet at an affordable price are gaining traction in the marketplace, specifically e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle device and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Amazon recently boasted it had it’s best sales month ever for the Kindle, though the company declined to provide specific figures. The Kindle enables readers to wirelessly purchase and download books, magazines, newspapers and more via 3G or Wi-Fi. It’s priced at $259 and features a 6-inch display that mimics the look of ink on paper.