by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

In July of last year, Michael Arrington posted on TechCrunch that he was tired of waiting for someone to produce a simple web tablet computer for “couch computing.” So, he asked readers to help him build one. Now, a year later, the blog is on the verge of announcing how to get your hands on just such a tablet. Not bad for people that until now have only written about devices.

The original idea was simple: a thin, light, computing tablet with the sole function of surfing the web. A single physical button would power on and off the device. All other interaction would be done through a touchscreen. When turned on the device would go directly to Firefox. The price goal was $200 and, originally, the end product was to be open sourced to “let anyone build one that wants to.”

Well, Firefox was nixed in favor a Webkit based browser and the cost will be closer to $299, about the same as the Kindle 2. But the CrunchPad, as the tablet is now called, does indeed exist — in a very proprietary form. Presumably it will be sold by a company spun off from the blog.

The near-finished Crunchpad is 16mm thick with a 12 inch full color touchscreen encased in aluminum. Exact details of the other specs will be released in a press event later this month or early August, but presuming it is like the previous prototype it will have: a 1024×768 resolution screen, 1GB RAM, 4GB flash drive, a camera, speakers, four cell battery and will be powered by a Via Nano processor. The whole thing will weigh about three pounds.

The Cruchpad is an interesting development consumer electronics, aside from being born from a blog. It competes on one level with netbooks, laptops, the Kindle and the iPod touch. Essentially it’s a netbook with bigger screen, no keyboard and no internal storage. For a lot people, is all they need. For web browsing, it works just as well as a laptop. The CrunchPad is web dependant, while Kindle functions entirely off of internal memory, but it is as portable as the Kindle, and in full color. Apple is rumored to have a tablet computer in the Pipeline, but it’s a safe bet the cost will be more than $299. It will be interesting to see if the sleek, simple CrunchPad can compete will Apple, Amazon and Dell.

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