Are higher-than-expected costs to blame?
One story we heard from a few people on a recent trip to California is that the CrunchPad is supposedly being delayed — perhaps indefinitely — by increasing expenses.
Arrington has said he wants to sell the device for as little money as possible, but that could be proving harder than originally planned. The story we’ve heard goes that Arrington’s suppliers have come back with quotes significantly higher than they had initially predicted.
That could explain why we haven’t heard a peep about the CrunchPad since the summer. Arrington told the New York Times in July that he would host an event “at the end of July or the beginning of August to make a big announcement about the CrunchPad,” and that the device would go on sale “as soon as possible.” It’s now November, with no event and no gadget.
Mike did not reply to an email seeking comment, but a delay due to costs would not be surprising. The same thing happened to the “One Laptop Per Child” effort, which tried to build a $100 laptop and ended up with a $200 laptop. (To be sure, the hardware industry is a very tough one to crack. For a taste, read “Piloting Palm,” co-authored by David Pogue, for an idea of how hard it was to build Palm Inc.)
The difference here is that the CrunchPad is not aimed at developing countries, but at Silicon Valley nerds. And if it’s going to cost $600 or $700 for a CrunchPad, which only supports Web surfing, it’s going to be tricky to compete with better devices from tech giants that cost just a few hundred dollars more. (For instance, the forthcoming Apple tablet, which could cost less than $1,000.)
When Arrington first mentioned the CrunchPad effort in July, 2008, he was aiming for a $200 price tag. In April, 2009, when he already had some prototypes built, he said “you can sell it for $300 and probably not go out of business.” In July, he told the New York Times it would cost “less than $300.” That may no longer be possible.