The Crunchpad – Victim of the Vulture Capitalists?

For those who haven’t heard, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has been talking up a device called the ‘CrunchPad‘. The CrunchPad is in effect the ultimate couch potatoes dream. A lightweight way to surf the internet. The first real tablet PC.

Quite frankly it is a neat looking device. They had talked about keeping the price down, and if it came in at the $300.00 target price, I was going to buy one to support the project (I’m not sure what I’d do with it, but hey, $300.00 isn’t that much).

On Novemeber 30th Arrington blogged The End Of The CrunchPad. The story as he tells it is one of greed on the part of the hardware partner, or rather the hardware partner’s investors. I’m going to quote Arrington here so you can understand his side:

Chandra also forwarded an internal email from one of his shareholders. My favorite part of the email: “We still acknowledge that Arrington and TechCrunch bring some value to your business endeavor…If he agrees to our terms, we would have Arrington assume the role of visionary/evangelist/marketing head and Fusion Garage would acquire the rights to use the Crunchpad brand and name. Personally, I don’t think the name is all that important but you seem to be somewhat attached to the name.”

If this is accurate, Arrington, and the entire TechCrunch project has been backstabbed, Fusion Garage, the hardware partner.

Interest across the internet has been high. The Register was their usual smart ass selves. The LA Times, The Inquirer, The Washington Post, Gotabemobile, Wir sprechen Online, jkOnTheRun, What Not To Do, Teleread, Clashgear, EricTric, BetterElevation, Techdusts, Engadget, and Gizmondo. There was a lot of interest in this baby. A lot. And there’s a lot of disappointed people out there.

So let’s get into the fun stuff. I did a quick Google on a couple of things.

The only reference to Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan is on Crunch Base, a part of Tech Crunch. Fusion Garage has an entry there as well. Chandrasekar’s profile on Crunchbase is weird. In the incoming links section is the LA Times article about the death of the Crunchpad. His blog is listed but its 404. Luckily our friend, the Google Cache has a copy and based on it, Arrington owns the project:

The collaboration with the Crunchpad project happened as a result of meetings we had with Mike Arrington and co, subsequent to TC50. We worked closely with Louis Monier in getting the software in shape for the hardware prototype B. We continue to work with them in getting the software in shape to make crunchpad a easy to use device. This is where we stand as of prototype-B: (Details over at TechCrunch’s update )

Needless to say, I now have a copy archived, and would be glad to supply if the Google Cache somehow gets sanitized.

In Twitter Arrington and Chandrasekar are still following each other. Possibly they can workout something via Tweet. Who knows. But I’m hoping for a resurrection of the Cronchpad, and for Michael Arrington to get his due. Scoobie has tweeted Chandrasekar

@rchandrasekar I think it would be good for you to come out with your side of the story. Soon. Like now. Don’t be “the guy that ruined it”

If he does, I will be updating this.

One final note – a competing Windows 7 device is being touted. I wonder if that had anything to do with the crash of the Cruchpad.

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9 thoughts on “The Crunchpad – Victim of the Vulture Capitalists?

  1. The K.R.T X9 has a battery life of four hours? WOW, you can almost complete a cross country flight.Well, lets see, it has a smaller screen than the CrunchPad, and is to sell for about six hundred, which is twice Arrignton's target price of three hundred. Well, if there were the two machines side by side in a big box store, which would you pick?A friend Hackintoshed a Dell netbook with a six cell battery, and it will go at least seven hours.The eMate from Apple would run for days on a set of batteries. I don't know how long the battery life was supposed to be on the crunchpad, but if you are going to get a portable device, then you don't want to have to spend time with it plugged in to the wall. That kind of defeats the purpose of going wireless doesn't it?I am repeatedly impressed with how Microsoft's version of stuff leaves much to be desired. As far as I know, the Zune is a flop. Windows 7 Starter is to be laughed at. Aaccording to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at Computer World, Windows Home Premium can't use Active Directory, in an enterprise environment. (http://blogs.computerworld.com/15163/windows_7_networking_guide)I guess Microsoft really doesn't want you to use your machine for both work. Well, one ray of hope, Google is working with hardware vendors to come out with a Chrome OS machine. There is always the rumored Apple tablet that people keep inventing for Apple to produce. We've not yet got the Star Trek tablet, but we are close.Personally, I think I'll just stay with this netbook for a few years. I really don't need a tablet device. Besides, I like the feel of a real keyboard. I also very much prefer a usb trackball mouse to the trackpad pointing device. I have much, much better control with it.

  2. Latest word on this appears to be that Fusion Garage will release the JooJoo on December 11th. We will see what we will see.Tried Ubuntu 9.10 remix on a live CD and was frustrated because I couldn't figure out how to make an application use a normal size window so I could have two applications in two windows visible at the same time. I suspect I would be equally frustrated by a browser only tablet or Chrome OS. I was also not happy with the control arrangement in the Firefox that was included, but that is a Firefox issue, not an Ubuntu issue. I like to be able to easily turn cookies on and off, now, it requires additional clicks to get there, and it wasn't obvious where it was located.The five hundred dollar price point, compared to a three hundred dollar netbook, doesn't help.Another detail, the K.R. T X9 battery life of four hours compared to the 5 hours of the Joo Joo, and six hundred compared to five hundred is not that bad. Microsoft might just get away with the "Windows Genuine Advantage" line. With only a three million budget, compared to what MS can wield, I'm not sure how things will play out. A bunch of negative publicity is not needed. Fusion Garage has it's work cut out for them.Of course, all this is premised on the assumption that Fusion Garage is free to go ahead without Arrington. It will be interesting to see if Fusion's claim that Aarington did not contribute one line of code holds up. I don't know whether there are any hardware design issues. Of course having Fusion Garage people working side by side with Crunchpad people in the same building can muddy the waters considerably. It certainly opens the door for claims that the ideas Fusion Garage used came from Crunchpad in a partnership. Also, it will be interesting if anyone can provide any kind of a contract.

  3. Yes, the price will probably be the "fail point". Assuming of course the Fusion Garage is allowed to sell it. I'm going to try and talk PJ into following the case, if legal action is taken.

  4. Reading more, my guess is they have five prototypes, and that's all they've got. The company that built them, didn't get paid, and since that company has already talked to Aarington, I suspect they will have to switch hardware manufacturers.I wonder where a business that collects five hundred dollars from the customer for delivery eight weeks later, will get that hardware built. We already saw posts that the twelve inch capacitive touch screens were hard to work with.Maybe someone can take design specs to a different plant with three million dollars and have them build the things for you. But hardware never performs exactly the way you expect it to, and you almost always have to tweak things with the software. If Fusion Garage has to use a different manufacturer, you really wonder if it is realistic.When all is said and done, five hundred dollars for a web browser is kind of steep.

  5. Greg,I really don't know what all Fusion Garage is going to do. I do suspect that things are not going the way they wanted them to. Not one little bit.But there are two sides to this. We've heard bits of both sides, but let's face it, it could be a simple misunderstanding.I don't think so though. This smells like SCO Group vs the Universe part 2.

  6. I thought that in addition to the price, the CrunchPad was too big. Particularly in light of the problems they experienced. However I will acknowledge that many applications and web pages do not have the smaller form factor in mind when designing how stuff is presented. It is irritating when the save button is in the lower right hand corner and you can't resize the window to make it smaller and show scroll bars so you can get at the expletive deleted button.All said and done, this article from InfoWorld caught my eye.Giving credit where it is due, the following are excerpts from the InfoWorld articlehttp://www.infoworld.com/print/105534"Indian startup designs tablet PC running Android"By John RibeiroCreated 2009-12-24 08:01AMNorton Ink is a startup in Hyderabad, India.They have developed a touchscreen tablet PC.The system uses Google's Android OS.It uses a chip set from Nvidia called Tegra, which is an "un-announced" product.The company's CEO is Rohan Shravan. He announced the tablet PC in a telephone interview on 24 December 2009.The computer uses a low power screen from Pixel Qi, is a 10.1 inch screen and it can be read in sunlight.It will be on display at the Vegas Consumers Electronics Show.Availability will depend on availability of the chip set.Target price is under $400.

  7. Well, there's rumors that Apple is going to blow them out of the water:http://techxav.com/2009/12/13/apple-tablet/January 26th Apple has rented a hall, and while nothing has been announced as to why they are renting the hall, a product announcement is one possibility. And if Apple does introduce something, there is a fairly good chance that it will sell well. Apple is well know for their market research and product design skills.

  8. Well, they did come out with the Newton and the eMate a few years back. So they do have some experience under their belt.Everybody is throwing rumors around about Apple. Personally I prefer to wait until Apple speaks. Past experience has demonstrated that Apple does not necessarily do what everyone expects them to do. Maybe it will be a wearable computer.

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