TechCrunch Tablet PC Shelved; Owners Dispute Rights

Dennis Faas's picture

What could have been the first mass-market Internet tablet-PC-based device has been abandoned in a copyright dispute.

Michael Arrington, the man behind the CrunchPad, says the firm physically manufacturing the product wanted to go it alone, but the two sides are locked in an irresolvable dispute.

The original concept of the CrunchPad was to produce a simple Linux-based tablet PC for easy web access, filling the gap between accessing the web on a smartphone and carrying around a full-blown portable computer such as a netbook or laptop.

CrunchPad: a Blogger's Brainchild

One of the most notable aspects of the project was that Arrington is a tech blogger rather than somebody working directly inside the IT industry. That led Popular Mechanics to describe the project as "proof that today a tech fanboy can take the director's chair and quickly prototype a smarter product." Unfortunately, it seems naming CrunchPad one of the "ten most brilliant products of 2009", was a somewhat premature verdict. (Source:

As Arrington blogs for TechCrunch (hence the Crunchpad name), the tech wing of the Washington Post's website, the project certainly seemed set to have a great outlet for publicizing the final product, as well as raising the interest of fellow IT reporters.

Rising Costs Bring Marketability into Question

The original price tag of the device was set to be $200, but recent reports suggested it might sell for double that figure. Arrington says the cost of production would have been $300 and that sponsorship would have made it possible to sell with a relatively minimal mark-up. (Source:

Still, that has raised questions about how viable the product would have been in the marketplace. While it's debatable whether or not there is really an appetite for a standalone Internet-surfing device, $300-plus would likely have put it out of the range of mass-market adoption.

Indeed, the original $200 price is often cited as the cost below which new technology must fall in order to gain a sizeable audience, the most recent example being Blu-ray players, which have only begun to catch on with techies now that the cost has dropped significantly since their initial launch three years ago.

Intellectual Property Rights Stalemate

While announcing the abandonment of the project Arrington claimed manufacturers Fusion Garage had contacted him just three days before a scheduled public launch and said they intended to produce and sell the device on their own. Arrington says that isn't possible, as the two sides have joint ownership of the intellectual property rights. That pretty much guarantees that if and when the CrunchPad does make a public appearance, it will be inside of a courtroom.

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