In 2008, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington had a lovely vision for a $200 portable tablet device that would provide wireless web browsing. Sixteen months later, the collaborators on the CrunchPad are going through a messy divorce and it's not likely to see the light of day. Looking at the project's evolution, though, I can't say I'm surprised.It seems like Arrington started the project with the idea it would be a grand collaboration of the Internet. Even the announcement on TechCrunch gave that impression, titled "We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It." Later in the article, Arrington says "We'll organize a small team of people to spec this out. ... If everything works well, we'd then open source the design and software and let anyone build one that wants to." So the vision appeared to be, take the best ideas to build this device and share everything back to the community since they helped build it in so many ways.
Things sounded a lot less idyllic yesterday, with Arrington saying, "the entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication." I'm willing to believe that characterization, but only if Arrington accepts his share of all three contributing factors.
Arrington mentions that neither party owns the intellectual property, and I'm not qualified to say who owns what. But the project started with the idea that they would "open source the design and software," so couldn't anyone build a replica anyway? Reading the obituary for the CrunchPad, it didn't sound anything like the egalitarian creative commons that it was sold to be when the project was created. If it still is really that open, Arrington can simply take the current unfinished design to someone else who is willing to work with his vision.
While the CrunchPad went through its stunted circle of life, plenty of netbooks, smartphones, and e-book readers have arrived on the market. Those devices have features the CrunchPad lacks, while the CrunchPad's singular claim to fame is that (if successful) it will have a large display but cost only $200. That one-trick pony doesn't look as attractive as it did sixteen months ago.