July 04, 2009

Arrington Betting Big On the CrunchPad Mobile Device

While many things have been written and said about TechCrunch's Michael Arrington since he debuted his technology blog network four years ago, he is without a doubt a risk taker. The pending launch of the eagerly awaited CrunchPad device could possibly do more to define his legacy than almost any other challenge he has taken on. Not content to having one of the most visible and influential technology sites on the Web, Arrington looks to be charging head-first into an extremely competitive field of consumer electronics, an area that will cost considerable investment of both time and money. If the CrunchPad is a success, the way we consume the Internet on the go could be forever changed. And if it is not, the device will join the ranks of many that have charged up the hill before it and fallen short.

Arrington's trait of a risk taker is one that has helped make him very successful, pushing his blog to near mainstream acceptance, competing against publications with history marked in centuries. And now, the story of the CrunchPad, so far, is one of his trying to develop a product that was a solution to a problem no consumer electronics hardware developer has yet done well - introducing a device whose sole purpose is to help browse the Web on the go. No hard drive. No phone calls. No keyboard. As he told the New York Times yesterday, the device's focus will help it avoid the slowness of other netbooks that are often impacted by other applications. And he doesn't see the device being eclipsed by the long-rumored tablet that Apple may or may not ever introduce.

An Early Prototype Image of the CrunchPad (via TechCrunch.com)

Early photos and short video clips of CrunchPad prototypes have not only made the device look real, but extremely inviting. On my first visit to TechCrunch's new headquarters in Palo Alto in April (See: Super Geek Spotted at TechCrunch HQ On a Segway), I saw the CrunchPad being worked on, but at Mike's request, did not take pictures of it or blog about it myself. As he was host, I obliged, of course.

But my interaction with the CrunchPad prototype was strictly visual. I didn't pick it up. I didn't turn it on. And I certainly didn't get to compare it to my laptop or my iPhone to see how it fared. And therein lies the real question of whether the CrunchPad has a home in my fast-growing gadget pile. I love the idea, but wonder just when would I need to have a CrunchPad along with me, either instead of the laptop or instead of the iPhone. The MacBook Pro is clearly my workhorse, and the iPhone is great for browsing quick clips on the go. The CrunchPad, a 3rd device, sits in between - a great looking device that I might pick up when I don't need to use any Office applications, but to instead just take in the Web.

The pricing of the CrunchPad, at a rumored $300, is about the same for an iPod or iPhone, and at the low end for some of today's underfeatured, ugly, netbooks. $300 is an aggressive price point that would make it practically impossible for me to make good excuses not to buy one, even if just to hit those "in between" scenarios where my laptop or iPhone would not fit the bill.

Coverage of the CrunchPad's continued development states that news will arrive by the beginning of August, and that the tablet will soon be available for purchase, giving Mike back the hours he would otherwise be spending blogging, as he looks to turn over day to day management of the product.