The end of the CrunchPad, the beginning of something else

Tiny CrunchPad

I’ve always thought people drawn to creating content should probably steer clear of producing hardware on which to distribute that content. But from Edison to Sony (and Conde Nast, perhaps), there seems to be this belief that vertical integration of content creation, distribution and out-put device is supposed to be the natural progression of things. I could throw in Steve Jobs, but when he was simultaneously, the CEO of a hardware company (Apple) and a content company (Pixar), he kept the two companies far apart and even realized that the two companies should be managed in a radically different manner.

So when Michael Arrington, creator of TechCrunch, announced that he was developing what seemed like a pretty cool concept, the CrunchPad, I was a skeptic for historic reasons. And, well, add to that, that he was up against the deepest of deep-dollar pockets, who, when they come out with their version of what he was developing, will spend more money on advertising in a week than he could spend in a decade, no matter how much venture funding he could raise — and, no doubt, he could raise plenty.

However, I admire anyone who tunes out his or her detractors and puts their resources (including time and money) where their heart is. I love people who push forward against the odds for things they believe in — even when that thing is a little gizmo. Like I said, I thought the concept was great: a low-cost alternative to the long-rumored Apple iPad (or whatever it will be called).

But the longer it takes for Apple to get their product to market — if, indeed there is such a product — they seem to be saying, there is something at the core of the concept that can’t past muster with Jobs. There’s some inherent challenge in the device that Apple — with all of its engineering prowess and work-flow mastery — can’t solve, yet. And therefore, it seems hard to believe that Michael Arrington and the band of co-creators he’d assembled, can crack the code on such a device that could be anything more than, say, a Rio MP3 player about three months before the release of the iPod.

And so, I guess I’m not terribly surprised to read his public proclamation today that the CrunchPad is dead. The essay is worth reading — especially by any young, hopeful entrepreneur — for the detail in which Michael spells out his side of what, as he even points out, is surely a two-sided story. (Frankly, if the people he writes about can actually pull-off the maneuver they seem to be attempting, he’ll be thanking his lucky stars one day that this fell apart now, rather than later.)

It is also worth noting that for many young tech developers, there is a belief that a mention on the website TechCrunch is some sort of ticket to success. Yet Michael Arrington, with his control of a contemporary version of “ink by the barrel,” (eyeballs by the millions, perhaps) can’t even turn owning TechCrunch into success for his own technology startup — not when a few of all the things that can go wrong, start going wrong.

And as with this case, those things that start going wrong, are the ones you could never imagine — or believe.

Funny, despite my early doubts about the project, I greatly admire and respect Michael Arrington far more today for having tried and failed than I ever would had he never tried.