As the tablet market started to gain new interest, the desire to own one captured my imagination as well. I was in a pickle a few months back. I was tasked to find ways to engage students and teach faculty methods of mobile engagement utilizing modern frameworks like the iPhone or Android. As mobile app projects fail to capture practical use in classrooms (seriously, what can you do on a phone that cannot be done better on a laptop?), there seem to be a real disconnect between the mobile aspect of the student and the pedagogy of a classroom. This is where I think tablets may succeed and why competition is desperately needed.
The next generation of tablets will be a hybrid product that will provide ease of use with an interface that is transparent to functional tasks (ie. captive displays) and have the size for practical data entry with the return of handwriting capture (or as promised by Microsoft’s Courier project). My dream: students entering notes on a captive screen slate that allow back-channel communication with classmates and a killer shared virtual whiteboard that everyone in the classroom can participate on at the same time that could be displayed in front of the class. Removed will be the serial path of classroom discussion, replaced with a multi-channel collaborative effort. All of this in a slim 8-10″ device that lay flat, removing the artificial barrier between student and teacher that an laptop screen produces AND can also perform field work utilizing GPS and cellular networks. Yeah, I took the magic beans sell hard but actually this concept is not that far off. The hardware will be there, just need to build the apps to support this dream.
This is where competition is so critical. Apple’s iPhone re-invented the mobile market and thus force everyone to play catch-up. Google’s Android is fiercely giving pursuit and is quietly overtaking many of iPhone’s shortcomings (multi-tasking, stronger hardware, [almost] seamless UI). No one is sitting on the fence for the tablets. The buzz is so hot that Microsoft is trying to beat Apple to the punch with their Courier project and Dell and Asus are jumping in with their solutions. That is the beauty of a competitive market, the ability for consumers to pick features that they want. This is where the Crunchpad comes into play.
Michael Arrington created a partnership with Fusion Garage in hopes to build his dream tablet that will challenge Apple and Microsoft solutions. An affordable captive tablet with open source roots seemed like a great gadget. That all fell apart as greed took over and now the renamed Crunchpad, JooJoo stumbles forward at a higher price point without TechCrunch and drowning in multiple allegations of back stabbing and failed promises. JooJoo’s tech debut was clumsily handled by a front-man that really has no public appeal. I know, ouch right? But that is the bitterness of the whole situation and truthfully a product doom to fail.
There was a chance for others in the industry to take note and possibly use the advantages of the Crunchpad/JooJoo in their upcoming products but sadly that will not be the case. Before the re-launch of the tablet market, we already have our first casualty and yet another platform that will not be a practical candidate for educational use. It is premature to say the market just shrank but it is sad to see a competitive device fail before it had a chance.
Thanks Crunchpad/JooJoo for getting our hopes up for nothing. Microsoft and Apple, will I still be able to pursue my dream? Google? Anyone?