The mythical Crunchpad has actually (almost) arrived--only now, it's the JooJoo Pad. It's been a dramatic saga so far. Long story short, TechCrunch.com's Michael Arrington decided in July 2008 that the world needs a web-ready media tablet computer for $200. Singapore-based developer Fusion Garage agreed to design such a device. Things were going swimmingly until summer 2009, when some delays popped up. A $200 tablet suddenly became a $300-$400 tablet, and the street date became a vague "by the end of 2009." On November 30th, Arrington declared the CrunchPad project dead. On December 7, Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan announced that, no, it's actually still alive and Fusion Garage will release it independently as the JooJoo Pad--for a whopping $500. In a move that surprised nobody, Arrington filed a big 'ol lawsuit against Fusion Garage on December 10.
All the in-fighting aside, the JooJoo Pad should finally ship to pre-ordering customers in 8-10 weeks according to Fusion Garage. $500 is a lot to ask for a keyboard-less device with the guts of a standard $350 netbook, but it sure is slick. It resembles a gigantic, 12-inch iPhone, but with several ports and inputs for future expansions (currently it only supports WiFi, so I'll take a not-so-wild guess and say that 3G support would be part of any expansion). Rathakrishnan is mum on the exact processor inside this machine (though he'll have to blurt it out eventually) but for something rumored to be running on the Atom processor, it plays 1080p video very, very well. Check out a JooJoo Pad demo and a chat with Rathakrishnan with Engadget below.
Fusion Garage is also apparently in talks with the media players (cartel?) that plan to launch tablet versions of their magazines in the next year. If you haven't seen it, check out this demo of Sports Illustrated designed for tablets:
It's shaping up to be what many of us had hoped a media tablet would be -- a way to get music, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, TV, and web browsing all in one portable, sexy slate. It's not exactly a laptop, but it may well be part of the future of portable computing. Apple, Microsoft, and NVIDIA are all rumored to be releasing similar devices sometime in the second half of 2010. The best guess (which really has no factual basis that I can discern) is that Apple's Tablet will cost a smooth $1000, so $500 doesn't sound so bad after all.
Update 12/18: The Archos 9 tablet dropped yesterday as well -- it's three inches smaller than the JooJoo, runs on an even-slower 1.1 gHz Atom processor, and comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition (ugh). We'd rather see it running Android, like the Archos 5 and 7. But hey, it's here right now and tablet mania has begun. It hasn't quite hit the mainstream yet, but we'll be singing a different tune next Christmas.