A fair amount of buzz today over Michael Arrington’s posting of details of his Tablet Computing prototype over on TechCrunch. Arrington is looking to make a slate-style touch screen device, running at 1024×768, and booting directly to a Webkit based browser. It looks ungainly now – although I think the Duplo based stand (*) in the demo video should be included in the retail pack – but his target of $300 retail price is ambitious and places it in the impulse buy in many tech stores.
I’m not going to go down the route of many blogs that are trying to add in more features (why not use Android), that are comparing it to existing tech like the Asus (it will never work) or that nobody bought this ten years ago (it’s not really original). What I wanted to talk about was the simple fact that Arrington has just went out and made the machine that suits him perfectly.
This is what I see the future of Consumer Electronics – the ability to mould your own device. Thanks to the Linux movement, one of the three main legs of any product, the software, is taken care of. Any equipment manufacturer can sort out a working operating system and tailor it to their needs. In the case of the CrunchPad, a basic Linux install with just the web browser is an easy ask for an OS.
Distribution, and the associated promotion and selling, is taken care of on the web – yes this is TechCrunch but anyone now has a way to reach the people who you think want your device.
The final leg here is hardware, and this is what I think is going to change over the next few years, allows individuals to put together small runs of equipment to a unique specification. This is still quite costly, but is certainly coming down compared to when I was involved with looking at PDA design and building seven or so years ago (and there is a story in there, but that is for another time).
Arrington is struggling to keep the build cost down, but I admire his tenacity. It will be interesting to follow the progress if does decide to move into either a limited (1000 units) or a full production. I wish him luck.
(*) Why does Arrington have Duplo around? Lego Technic I could understand, or even regular Lego, but those are the big pre-school sized bricks. Should I be searching for CrunchBaby?