Was the CrunchPad Born to Die?

Tech bloggers mourn the inevitable death of Michael Arrington's dreams

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It's hard to overstate tech-bloggers' interest in the CrunchPad, a tablet-computing device announced by TechCrunch blog founder Michael Arrington all the way back in summer 2008. Fans and critics alike agree that the plan to create a low-cost, open source, web-browsing machine for release this year was extremely ambitious, even for one of the Internet's most popular technology blogs. On Monday, however, Arrington went public with an emotional post describing how partner company Fusion Garage had decided to cut TechCrunch out of the equation just days before the planned launch date, claiming sole ownership of the project. Arrington, a former lawyer, promises that lawsuits are on the way. Bloggers, meanwhile, reacted to the news with more sympathy than scorn, but few said that it came as a great surprise.

  • Sadly Predictable  SlashGear's Chris Davies thinks that the death of the CrunchPad is bad news for all tech aficionados, but not entirely unpredictable : "Away from the production wrangles, it’s disappointing news both for anybody interested in portable electronics and for those to whom the CrunchPad project represented the potential for individuals and small companies to come up with an idea and make it reality.  Right now it looks like SlashGear columnist Michael Gartenberg’s predictions were correct: citizen gadgetry is harder than it seems."
  • Greed is Good  David Adams at OS News mourns the loss of a potentially game-changing open source device, but suggests that Arrington might have brought it upon himself through a lack of business acumen: "This is all very sad. The CrunchPad had a lot of promise, because it was driven by the very best incarnation of the Hacker Ethos. Talented and driven people, who surveyed the marketplace and failed to find a device that met their wants and needs, pulled together hardware and software talent to bring their dreams to reality, and designed a very appealing-looking device…I wonder if Michael Arrington's professed uninterest in large profits contributed to his partners' attempt to cut him out, since the CrunchPad had the potential of being a very successful project launch."
  • Performance vs. Promises  Priya Ganapati at Wired's Gadget Lab says that the hype surrounding the CrunchPad was almost certainly over-inflated: "CrunchPad never moved beyond the vaporware category. Even a prototype version of the device was not shown publicly. But that didn’t deter some industry watchers from hailing it as the next ‘it’ product.  Last month, Popular Mechanics named the CrunchPad to its 'ten most brilliant products of 2009' list." And as for Arrington's claims that the launch would have gone smoothly had it not been for Fusion Garage's double cross? "Take all of this with a big grain of salt. Arrington’s earlier promises regarding the CrunchPad never panned out, and his latest missive only points to his inability to walk the talk."
  • Niche Market Anyway  Kevin C. Tofel at JK On the Run doesn't think that had the CrunchPad launched as planned, its chances of success weren't very great to begin with, because it wasn't poised to appeal to the masses: "Readers here might have shown great interest, but consumers at large probably wouldn’t…Why do I say that the device wouldn’t appeal to mainstream folks?…A basic on-screen keyboard for a 12″ slate simply won’t cut it for most people. It’s too large to thumb-type on, which means you’ll be holding the device in one hand while pecking with another. And the price is another issue. $300 buys you what I’d consider an equally portable, yet far more function device in either a netbook or a smartphone. Unless there was a subsidy model in play, a web-only tablet isn’t what folks expect for $300 or more."
  • Oh Crunchpad, Where Art Thou?  Engadget blogger Nilay Patel takes the opportunity to mock the CrunchPad project and its resulting fallout, offering precious little sympathy for Arrington's admission that he might have trusted his partners a bit too much: "Making matters worse, Mike's no longer buds with Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan, who he thought he'd be friends with 'for the rest of our lives.' Tear. Now, we're not sure we've heard the last of the CrunchPad -- if anything, Michael Arrington is irrepressible -- but we can't say we're surprised the first chapter has ended in such fantastic fashion. We're assuming several major Hollywood studios are already lining up to buy the rights, and we've heard unconfirmed reports that George Clooney has signed on to star for free because he believes in the project so deeply."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.