TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington started an intriguing project last summer. The goal was to build a $200 tablet designed for browsing the web, watching online video, and generally doing things that you can do in a browser. The idea was that since the hardware and software didn’t need to support any application other than the web browser, you could cut costs in a lot of areas.

Half a year later, the team working on the TechCrunch tablet (known for now as the CrunchPad) have built a second prototype. Unlike the first prototype which basically turned on and off, the latest CrunchPad is a functional tablet with a 12 inch display, a VIA Nano CPU and a full blown Ubuntu Linux operating system, although the primary interface is a custom web browser that I’m pretty sure is based on Firefox, and an on-screen keyboard.

If Arrington and crew could have pulled this off for the target price of $200, I’d be impressed. But Arrington says if this device actually goes into production, $299 is probably a more realistic price. And at that price, you could probably pick up an 8.9 inch or 10 inch netbook. Sure, there’s some appeal to the idea of a device with a touchscreen and a larger display. But I’m not sure why I would pay $299 for a device that only functions as an internet tablet when I could spend the same kind of money and get a computer that runs native apps as well as web applications, and which comes with a full keyboard making text entry a lot easier than on a hunt and peck onscreen keyboard.

But maybe that’s just me. What do you think? Would you buy a CrunchPad for $299? Let us know in the comments.

And you can check out a video of the prototype in action after the break.

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20 replies on “The TechCrunch tablet crams netbook parts into an internet tablet”

  1. Hunt and peck: Does not have to be that way. The virtual keyboard could be resizeable, for example, so that it fits my fingers perfectly.

    Less is more, so I think the CrunchPad wins overall, if it can be made to look sexy, that is.

    There are a couple of native apps I would miss, but not many, and I can live without them. Bear in mind, the person who would buy is falls into one of two categories: (1) The family has other computers already. (2) The person who does nothing besides use web resources, e.g. my retired mom.

  2. They did this before, Anyone Remember the Epods One tablet, it ran on windows ce, was set up pretty much to just browse.

    That idea went down the toilet fairly fast.

  3. The Lego support stand is awesome, a VC magnet 🙂

    Need a device that is larger than iPhone but smaller than CrunchPad.

    Not going to do lots of programming or typing on such a device, any more than one does on a Kindle or iPhone. This is for reading web, text files and PDFs and similar light functions.

    The periodical industry in particular needs to get behind these kinds of devices because the cost of printing and distribution for magazines and newspapers is part of what is killing them.

  4. I don’t like seeing him take his hand off the device to scroll. A scroll wheel or pad, even a rocker switch on the bezel might help, unless they make the software scroll bar wider.

    Curiously, they don’t play any of the videos full-screen. (In fact, they have a 2nd prototype video where he hits the fullscreen option on Hulu, it pops up, and then they instantly cut to a new scene. No explanation. That’s super fishy.) They seem to stutter as is, though that might be hammered out.

    They mention the monitor port is only there because it’s a prototype, but taking out the monitor-out port would make hacking it harder. Leaving it in, maybe even behind a panel if Arrington doesn’t want to scare people with it, doesn’t hurt anything.

    I do think $300 is good for a 12″ fully-featured touchscreen computer, but if he wants a closed system that won’t do anything but browse, it gets beaten by $300 10″ netbooks and $250 9″ers.

  5. I see this as more of a competitor for the eeetop the Shuttle machine and the like. It would be great for use in the home, especially if it comes with some instant on scheme. For use outside the home a traditional clamshell would be better, especially with a touch screen. Just have a witeless keyboard ready when you need to type.

  6. Hmph. This is so different from what I would want I don’t know where to start. I would want a device I can use while doing things like waiting on line or riding mass transit. That means:
    – nine inch screen or smaller, and a touch screen type that is stylus compatible so the onscreen keyboard can be smaller (and, fwiw, resizable). Small device size is crucial. So is absolutely minimal weight within cost constraints.
    – easily swapped batteries or 3 + hr battery life (using AAs would be ideal since one can always pick up more on the road).
    – somewhat water resistant so when, not if I put it down on dewy grass, I don’t kill the device and using it outdoors on misty late nights isn’t a problem either.
    – looks inexpensive so I can use it anywhere and not have it get stolen.
    – either very good WiFi antenna or connector to add supplementary antenna.
    – A headphone jack.
    A neoprene or equivalent outer case would be crucial but that’s a classic “third party opportunity” unless they want to offer it as a twenty buck option to increase profits.

    They’ve built a high tech device for use in nice, tidy offices or middle class homes. I would want a cheap, simple device to use while grabbing a 2:00 a.m. meal at a taco truck or while taking the subway. And not to be a jerk or anything, but I suspect that there are more people like me (graduate students, kids, working class folks who want to check their email at lunch, activists, gardeners) who are currently unaddressed by the market then there are people looking for yet another “cool” tablet of the sort Tech Crunch is building. The LARPer/paintball crowd alone would buy enough of them to justify such a device.

  7. Not for $299. No. For that price, I could get a full-fledged netbook with a keyboard and trackpad … Or a more powerful, less portable laptop… Or much more portable iPod Touch / Nokia Internet Tablet, or similar. At $199, maybe – but not at $299. This is meeting a need almost nobody has.

    1. I have to agree, 199$ is a maybe…no way at $299.

      But you are wrong about meeting a need almost no one has.
      Toilet reading.
      I love the netbook but even small as it is, its not perfect for reading in the can.
      I think the CrunchPad has its place in the washroom.

      Id love a one hand held way to read in the john and Im sure Im not the only one.

      1. $299 won’t even afford me a Eee PC 701 here in Japan (depending on what shops you go to). This is cheap in my opinion (as a non-American). Hell I’d get one…

  8. I would buy it. This is essentially where all future portable devices should go in my opinion. Desktops in the office, laptops for power users and tablets for mobile computing. The iPhone has proved that touch interfaces can work.

    I hope they can secure funding and partners to get this thing into production. I’d buy shares if I had the money 🙂

  9. They want to make it so it’s only used for web browsing so no drawing programs.

  10. What are the dimensions?

    12 inch screen or 12 inches wide?

    Personally I would probably like one 2 to 3 inches smaller but I don’t know the current dimensions.

    And I would like a drawing program on it where a stylus would be used on the touch screen.

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