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Would You Buy a Web Tablet?

Michael Arrington, famed founder of the TechCrunch blog, wanted something he couldn't buy (horrors!), so he decided to build it himself. The result: The CrunchPad, a cheap, screen-only tablet PC designed expressly for "Internet consumption."

Conceived last July, the device is currently still in the prototype stages, as evidenced by some new CrunchPad photos leaked a few days ago. Having looked at them, and having read Arrington's explanation for the device's existence, I'm left with a simple question: Who would ever want one of these things?

Apart from Michael Arrington, I mean. Here's how he describes the CrunchPad:

The key uses: Internet consumption. The virtual keyboard will make data entry a pain other than for entering credentials, quick searches and maybe light emails. This machine isn't for data entry. But it is for reading emails and the news, watching videos on Hulu, YouTube, etc., listening to streaming music on MySpace Music and imeem, and doing video chat via tokbox. The hardware would consist of netbook appropriate chipsets (Intel Atom or Via Nano), at least a 12 inch screen, a camera for photos and video, speakers and a microphone. Add a single USB port, power in and sound out, and you're done. If you want more features, this ain't for you.

Nope, it ain't for me. Arrington is ballparking a $250 build cost and $300 sale price. That sounds reasonable enough, though I have my doubts he'll be able to pull it off. And where are we getting our Internet? Wi-Fi? Someone's 3G network? That rather crucial detail has yet to be revealed.

Make no mistake, I'm all for newfangled gadgets. I just think if I'm spending $300, I'll buy a netbook that can do everything the CrunchPad promises to do, and quite a bit more.

What do you think? See any business applications for this device? I suppose it could find a home in some vertical markets (imagine roving hospital workers using them to take and track patient information), assuming Arrington downplays its decidedly consumer-oriented nature. Somehow, I don't think he will.

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