TechCrunch shows off prototype CrunchPad tablet

It's far from being on store shelves, but some additional details and photos of the CrunchPad, a mobile computing device as envisioned by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, have been released.

An early look at the CrunchPad prototype. TechCrunch

It's far from being on store shelves, but some additional details and photos of the CrunchPad, a mobile computing device as envisioned by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, have been released. The project's goal was to design and build a thin, light touch-screen PC without a physical keyboard or onboard hard drive. Instead, the system and its custom operating system would be entirely focused on Web browsing and using Web-based apps.

"I wanted something I couldn't buy, and found people who said it could be built for a lot less than I imagined," writes Arrington on his site. "This machine isn't for data entry. But it is for reading e-mails and the news, watching videos on Hulu, YouTube, etc., listening to streaming music on MySpace Music and imeem, and doing video chat via tokbox."

Arrington says the CrunchPad can be built for around $250, with a possible retail price of $300. This is all still very hypothetical, because the design team has just finished its second prototype, and Arrington isn't ready to speculate on a possible commercial release time frame. The current 12-inch prototype runs Ubuntu Linux off of an Intel Atom CPU.

The question naturally arises--in a world filled with $229 iPod Touches and $349 Netbooks, is there room for a $300 product that is essentially a hybrid of the two? The touch screen is an important feature for a portable device to have, but the lack of a HDD or software other than a Web browser makes this essentially a thin client that surfs the Web and does little else (and without a mobile broadband option, it can only do that when in range of an accessible Wi-Fi signal).

Then again, small devices like this are made or broken based on their ease of use and design (see: iPhone versus Blackberry Storm), so if Arrington and his partners somehow manage to nail the user interface and physical package, they could have a very desirable product on their hands.

 

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