Is The Web-Centric CrunchPad Tablet Doomed?

CrunchPadThe Singapore Straits Times revealed the specs of the anticipated CrunchPad tablet notebook today. The hardware is reminiscent of netbooks, but the tablet is as notable for what’s included as what’s not:

  • Size: 12.77 x 7.83 x 0.74 inches
  • Screen: 12 inches
  • Weight: 1.2kg
  • CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Atom
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Ports: 1 USB, mobile broadband
  • Connectivity: WiFi & 3G, with option for mobile broadband
  • Accelerometer

The OS for the tablet is essentially a browser (based on WebKit) and all applications will require Web access. The idea of the browser as operating system is an intriguing one, and I often see people commenting that the OS is less important to consumers because of Web apps. This rings true, but that doesn’t mean the overall operating system can simply be done away with. Being able to access and manipulate data independent of Internet speed or connectivity will be important for anyone looking to do more than the most basic of tasks with the CrunchPad. Michael Arrington wanted “dead simple”, and that’s a fine goal. But simple should not be confused with overly limited. Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, founder of Fusion Garage, which makes the software for the CrunchPad, posits that the Web-centric nature of the CrunchTablet puts it in a different category from the proposed Apple tablet: ‘It’s two different market segments. The Apple tablet will likely be applications-driven. Ours will be Web-driven.’ Dan Frommer of The Business Insider thinks that’s why the Apple tablet will “doom” the device and points out the myriad of problems with this approach. Even with connectivity via mobile broadband, there are still plenty of places where users find themselves out of range — subways, planes, traveling through dead zones, etc. If users can’t even edit a document, watch a movie, or listen to music without being connected, how useful will the device be? There is no card reader, and Singapore Straits Times says that the device “will not have storage space.” You could plug a USB drive into the one port, but who wants something protruding from a tablet all the time? A memory card slot would serve the device better. In Arrington’s original post outlining what he wanted in a touchscreen tablet, he did mention the device having a small, 4GB SSD drive. Will users not have access to the drive the OS lives on? If the OS is essentially a browser, then it’s not going to take up a lot of space on a 4GB drive (though with advances in the technology, an 8GB drive would be better and shouldn’t take up any more physical space). There should be room for file storage at least, and maybe a basic application or two beyond a browser. Until people get their hands on the CrunchPad it’s going to be hard to tell whether the browser-as-OS concept has legs in this implementation. Frommer may be spot-on in calling the CrunchPad ahead of its time. When connectivity, be it broadband or Wi-Fi (or some other technology) is available underground, in the air, and in (almost) every country for low or no cost, this could be the next step forward in mobile tech. That time is probably not far off, but it’s far enough away that full cloud computing isn’t totally practical. Until then, the CrunchPad may have to settle for being just a good idea. Image Credit & Hat Tip:

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  1. ikkefc3 Says:

    If this thing sells well, automatically there will come some enthousiasts that find a way to put a new os on it, just like people put Linux on all those Windows netbooks.

  2. linux Says:

    Without sufficient storage, Linux will not work well.
    No memory card slot is a critical problem.

    Yes, this would have been an awesome hackable device!
    People could have configured their own mini Linux OS with features/apps they chose.
    PDF reader, video player, MP3 player, off-line note taking, games, etc, etc.

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