It turns out, technology costs more than TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington thought, as the price of his CrunchPad appears to be creeping higher and higher.
The touchscreen tablet computer was supposed to be "dead simple," in Arrington's words, with little functionality beyond a Web browser. To that end, Arrington was hoping to sell the device for $200, but in January he said $300 seemed likelier. (I'd provide the link, but TechCrunch has apparently removed that page now.)
(By the way, I find it deliciously ironic that Arrington, the king of leaks and dirty details, can't keep the lid on his pet project. On the other hand, maybe all CrunchPad news is carefully orchestrated and Arrington knows exactly what he's doing.)
My colleague David Coursey was right on when he said the CrunchPad needs a low price point -- $99 or $200, tops. At those prices, or even at $300, the CrunchPad is somewhat of an easy buy, and sits in a league of its own as a simple gadget for Web browsing.
But bump the price up to $400, and now the CrunchPad has competition. Does the consumer buy the Web device with the fancy touch screen, or is it smarter to get a netbook that can do it all? For tablet buyers, perhaps Amazon's Kindle e-reader will be more attractive.
And then there's the fabled Apple tablet. If the device is indeed real, it could very well cost $500. With only a hundred bucks difference between the hottest gadget brand out there and a startup that's never sold technology devices before, the decision would be a no-brainer.
To put it simply, a $400 price tag would make buying the CrunchPad a difficult decision. For a device that's supposed to be a natural fit for Web-connected consumers, that spells trouble.