I admit I was skeptical when Mike Arrington first announced he wanted to build a lightweight Web Tablet. Skeptical partly because I had just witnessed Ismael Ghalimi of the Office 2.0 fame feverishly work on the Redux Model 1. I had been doubtful about his effort, too, but his energy level was just radiating, he actually convinced me, I started to believe… But in the end, all the effort (and quite some money Ismael spent along the way) came down to nothing, he nuked the device, and the Office 2.0 Conference gadget became an HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.
Fast-forward half a year, and TecCrunch is showing off a prototype. Granted, it’s not as cool-looking as the initial sketch above, but this one is working.
The CrunchPad has:
- 12-inch touchscreen with a Resolution of 1024×768
- Via Nano processor
- 1 GB of ram
- 4 GB flash drive (will likely grow in capacity later)
- Accelerometor (to sense when you turn it)
- 4-cell battery
Do the specs sound familiar? If they are, that’s because they are very similar to the typical Netbook specs. In fact the CrunchPad is really a Netbook, without the keyboard.
Touch-screens are becoming fashionable, largely due to the iPhone, and now there are new desktop and even Netbook models equipped with a touch screen. But while it may be suitable for large desktop displays (think Kiosk)’ I really think there’s a usability problem with touch-screens on a Netbook. It’s not an easy, natural pose – just try to poke on a screen of a tiny Netbook. You want a touch-screen, you’re better of detaching it – hence the CrunchPad.
Physical vs. on-screen keyboard: it all started with the Palm (Treo) devices a decade or so ago. The first Treo models came in both configurations: physical keyboard with a smaller screen, or a full-size screen with touch-only (stylus), sans keyboard. Back then the keybord-less version did not gain traction, it quickly vanished from the market. Now that we no longer need a stylus, and multi-touch is available, we’re seeing the opposite trend more and more people sacrifice the real keyboard for a larger screen in a small form factor.
Of course not everyone likes a barebones tablet: TechCrunch commenters already started to recommend accessories like a bluetooth keyboard and more. Of course with more devices comes more bulk, and soon the CrunchPad would be like … a PC.
I see a different trend. At these price-levels (typical Netbook range is $400-500, the CrunchPad aims at $300) we no longer just have one personal computer (or a decade ago one for the family), but multiple situational devices: a desktop with a large screen for the office or home, a notebook for easy travel or even work at the backyard, a netbook for short trips, conferences, an iPhone if you want to carry even less, and now a CrunchPad for those lazy moments on the couch or at the pool-side.
We’re clearly moving to device-independent computing, and the more of these situational devices we have, the less viable the sync-it-all, carry-your-files-with-you model becomes. (Just try the madness of waiting for your files to sync between 2 or 3 computers before you can start to work … it only gets worse the more devices we have. ) Hence one of the most notable components of the CrunchPad is the one it does not have: a hard-disk. A flash drive is more then sufficient to keep the OS (barebones in itself) and a few basics. Everything else, your applications and data are in the Cloud.