Image: CrunchPad prototype
Courtesy of PC World
A prototype of the CrunchPad, a 12-inch tablet computer that was named one of the 10 "most brilliant products" of the year by Popular Mechanics magazine.
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msnbc.com
updated 11/30/2009 1:15:59 PM ET 2009-11-30T18:15:59

The CrunchPad, a highly anticipated 12-inch tablet computer that was recently named as one of the 10 "most brilliant products" of the year by Popular Mechanics magazine, is "now in the DeadPool," according to the man who has been its biggest enthusiast.

Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch.com, called it a "sad day at TechCrunch HQ" in a posting, "The End of the CrunchPad" on his site Monday. Arrington said the "entire project self-destructed" because of "miscommunication" and other issues with an outside project partner.

Arrington was aiming to have the CrunchPad out soon, and while pricing wasn't set, it was geared to be a $300 to $400 device which would be mainly for Web surfing on the go.

"It was so close I could taste it," he said in his posting. "Two weeks ago we were ready to publicly launch the CrunchPad. The device was stable enough for a demo. It went hours without crashing. We could even let people play with the device themselves — the user interface was intuitive enough that people “got it” without any instructions. And the look of pure joy on the handful of outsiders who had used it made the nearly 1.5 year effort completely worth it."

Tablets have been a hot topic this year as products that, like netbooks and smartphones, can provide portable Web access on the go. Supposedly Apple's coming out with a tablet next year, Microsoft's got one on board and so, it seems, does every major manufacturer of any tech device that's ever been made.

Apple's hasn't commented, and when a prototype of a Microsoft tablet was "leaked" a few months ago to Web site Gizmodo.com, Microsoft did not comment. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The CrunchPad's fate is "not a surprise," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret, LLC. "Developing, creating and shipping consumer electronics that have appeal to a mass market is hard.

"The CrunchPad seemed like a tough story from day one. Too expensive and too limited to appeal to the mass market and each 'announcement' seemed to bring a higher price point. The market has consistently rejected devices that live in the 'tweener space between laptops and cell phones.

"There wasn't anything one could do with the device that one couldn't do with a cheap netbook and lots one could do with a netbook that was beyond the ability of the CrunchPad design. While there may be devices in the future that can succeed in this space, they likely won't come from niche players."

Arrington indicated in his posting that the CrunchPad may still be manufactured, although not by TechCrunch and probably not without legal action first.

"Partnerships are dangerous constructs because it is relatively easy for one side or the other to suddenly want a better deal with a broken company and expensive litigation as the result," said technology consultant Rob Enderle.

"The device was actually very interesting, though it was trending to be much too expensive for anyone but an Apple-class vender to sell. Given they set expectations for initial price so low and then were unable to build a device that would meet those expectations I doubt the device would have been very successful."

Enderle added, "while this is an ugly way for this project to fall apart, better now than after a large amount of unsold, expensive inventory was stuck on shelves and a lot of hungry lawyers were in a feeding frenzy on the carcass."

Arrington ended his post by saying: "It’s a sad day at TechCrunch HQ. Hitting the publish button on this post, which makes all of this so…final…is a very hard thing to do. I’m enraged, embarrassed, and just…sad. The CrunchPad is now in the DeadPool."

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