Monday, November 30, 2009

The End Of The CrunchPad

The End Of The CrunchPad: "

The CrunchPad was a very exciting idea, and at a price point of ~ $400, it was very promising. And it was supposed to be released in November / December time frame. Sad indeed.

It was so close I could taste it. Two weeks ago we were ready to publicly launch the CrunchPad. The device was stable enough for a demo. It went hours without crashing. We could even let people play with the device themselves – the user interface was intuitive enough that people “got it” without any instructions. And the look of pure joy on the handful of outsiders who had used it made the nearly 1.5 year effort completely worth it.

Our plan was to debut the CrunchPad on stage at the Real-Time Crunchup event on November 20, a little over a week ago. We even hoped to have devices hacked together with Google Chrome OS and Windows 7 to show people that you could hack this thing to run just about anything you want. We’d put 1,000 of the devices on pre-sale and take orders immediately. Larger scale production would begin early in 2010.

And then the entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication.

On November 17, our deadline date for greenlighting the debut three days later, the CEO of our partner on the project, Chandra Rathakrishnan, sent me an email with the subject “no good news.” Yuck, I thought. Another delay, probably with the screen that had been giving us so much trouble – capacitive touch at 12 inches isn’t trivial. And sure enough, the email started off with “no good news to update. updated hardware is still on its way , so that’s a timing issue. friday will be a challenge now.”

But the email went on. Bizarrely, we were being notified that we were no longer involved with the project. Our project. Chandra said that based on pressure from his shareholders he had decided to move forward and sell the device directly through Fusion Garage, without our involvement.

Err, what? This is the equivalent of Foxconn, who build the iPhone, notifiying Apple a couple of days before launch that they’d be moving ahead and selling the iPhone directly without any involvement from Apple.

Chandra also forwarded an internal email from one of his shareholders. My favorite part of the email: “We still acknowledge that Arrington and TechCrunch bring some value to your business endeavor…If he agrees to our terms, we would have Arrington assume the role of visionary/evangelist/marketing head and Fusion Garage would acquire the rights to use the Crunchpad brand and name. Personally, I don’t think the name is all that important but you seem to be somewhat attached to the name.”

And with that, the entire project self destructed.

Neither we nor Fusion Garage own the intellectual property of the CrunchPad outright. Fusion Garage has a team of 13 or so employees, currently working here in Silicon Valley out of a home they rented and in our office. Their team has mixed with our CrunchPad team, which is led by Brian Kindle, the former Vice President Hardware Engineering and Manufacturing at Vudu and an early hardware engineer at TiVo. Development expenses have been shared, and our team has spent time in Singapore and Taiwan, and their team has spent time here. We chose to work with Fusion Garage on Prototype C and the launch prototype after we finished Prototype B internally.

We jointly own the CrunchPad product intellectual property, and we solely own the CrunchPad trademark.

So it’s legally impossible for them to simply build and sell the device without our agreement.

We’re still completely perplexed as to what happened. We think they were attempting to renegotiate the equity split on the company behind CrunchPad, which was to acquire Fusion Garage. Renegotiations are always fine. But holding a gun to our head two days before launching and insulting us isn’t the way to do that. We’ve spent the last week and a half trying unsuccessfully to communicate with them. Our calls and emails go unanswered, so we can’t even figure out exactly what’s happened.

Yesterday Chandra sent an email saying “Following our phone discussion, I had another round of discussions with my shareholders. The shareholders are not willing to move from their position as they believe their stand is justified. On the other hand, there isn’t an alternative offer on the table from Crunchpad.”

My response: “We have not come back to you with any counter offer to the email you forwarded because you and your shareholders have communicated to us that moving forward without us is something that you consider to be a legitimate and legal option. In other words, your “counter” offer is theft of intellectual property.”

Ultimately there are two sides to every story, and they’ll certainly have their side. We will almost certainly be filing multiple lawsuits against Fusion Garage, and possibly Chandra and his shareholders as individuals, shortly. The legal system will work it all out over time.

Mostly though I’m just sad. I never envisioned the CrunchPad as a huge business. I just wanted a tablet computer that I could use to consume the Internet while sitting on a couch. I’ve always pushed to open source all or parts of the project. So this isn’t really about money. It was about the thrill of building something with a team that had the same vision. Now that’s going to be impossible. And I’ve also lost a friend – Chandra spent months in our office this year and, until a week and a half ago, was the kind of young, determined entrepreneur that I admire. I thought we’d be friends for the rest of our lives.

And what’s really sad about all this is the incredible support we were getting from companies and people around the world to launch this device. A major multi-billion dollar retail partner has been patiently working with us for months, giving advice on manufacturing partners and offering to sell the CrunchPad at a zero margin to help us succeed in the early days. They were also willing to pay for the devices on order instead of 30 days after delivery, a crucial cash flow benefit that would allow us to ramp up volume without putting ourselves our of business. They were even willing to fly the devices from China on their own planes to eliminate our shipping costs. Intel, which would supply the Atom CPUs to power the device, has assisted us repeatedly with engineering and partner advice, and gave us pricing that was ridiculously generous given our projected first year sales volumes. Other partners were eager to promote and sell the device for little or no benefit on their end other than “supporting the project.” We even had sponsors lined up to help us sell the device near our $300ish cost.

And money wasn’t a problem, either. We had blue chip angel and venture capitalist investors in Silicon Valley waiting to invest in the company since late Spring. We were simply holding them off until we launched, to eliminate some of the risk.

It’s a sad day at TechCrunch HQ. Hitting the publish button on this post, which makes all of this so…final…is a very hard thing to do. I’m enraged, embarrassed, and just…sad. The CrunchPad is now in the DeadPool.

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NASA Attempts To Assuage 2012 Fears

Come on, people! How can there be SOOO many people who don't understand the word FICTION?

It's already been proven that the date of 2012 was a miscalculation from bad astronomical observations and it should be 2212, if that even makes a difference.

Matthew 24:36 says "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." and Mark 13:32 says "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." That's the concurence of two witnesses.

Whenever someone says "The world's gonna end on . . ." I feel safe on that day.

NASA Attempts To Assuage <em>2012</em> Fears: "eldavojohn writes 'The apocalyptic film 2012 has dominated the box office, taking in $65 million on opening weekend. But with all those uninformed eyeballs watching the film, NASA has found itself answering so many common questions that their Ask an Astrobiologist blog offers calming, professional reassurance that there is no planet Nibiru, nor will it collide with Earth (although I do recall a massive solar storm forecast). NASA's main site even offers a FAQ answering similar questions. NPR has more on NASA scientist David Morrison and his efforts to calm the ensuing public hysteria, but survivalists are already planning for the big one. Pretty funny, right? Not according to Morrison: 'I've had three from young people saying they were contemplating committing suicide. I've had two from women contemplating killing their children and themselves. I had one last week from a person who said, 'I'm so scared, my only friend is my little dog. When should I put it to sleep so it won't suffer?' And I don't know how to answer those questions.''

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

TV, Netbook, and Google toys

Well, yesterday was Friday the 13th, but as usual it was a reasonably good day for me (paraskevidekatriaphobia usually isn’t a problem for me, since my parents were married on Friday the 13th). The Pampered Chef party last night was fun, and I got to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

But what you’re here about is most likely my new toys, so let me tell you about what’s been going on toy-wise.

First toy is the ATI TV Wonder 650 Combo Hi-Speed USB Tuner. To be honest, I’m not too impressed so far. I got it because it has two tuners, one for NTSC broadcast, and one for cable, ATSC and Clear-QAM broadcast, which is unscrambled digital HD broadcast on cable, like Comcast does with the local channels. Either the box needs a very high gain on the Clear-QAM signal, I’ve got a lot of loss in my digital cable signal, or I’m doing something wrong, because I couldn’t get the Clear-QAM broadcast to pick up. I got signals, but none of them were strong enough to show an image. So, I need to spend more time with it.


I have that box connected to an HP Windows-XP Media Center box. I’ll have to try putting the Windows 7 x64 version on it (the RC, not the purchased copy). Maybe that will help matters. That and putting it on an amplifier or a shorter cable run. We’ll see what happens. No recommendation on that yet; I need to do more playing first.

So, This week I bought an Acer Aspire One from my friend Shawn at work. It came with Windows-XP installed, an outdated version of McAfee anti-virus that wouldn’t scan the computer, and a few apps. The first thing I did, after the procedure I have to connect a computer to my network, is install the Comcast McAfee AV software and scan the computer. Not surprisingly, it found 9 infected files, which I deleted. Shawn says there’s more (he’s a penetration expert (read as “white hat hacker”) but McAfee hasn’t figured them out yet.

Next thing I did was connect it to my home workgroup, then to the Windows Home Server. Windows Home Server has the ability to backup computers on the network, and provides the ability to boot off a CD (or thumb drive that “looks” like a CD) to restore the entire system from the last good backup. I thought this would be a good idea, since I was going to wipe the entire hard drive and put Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) on it.

I’m very impressed with UNR on the Aspire One. XP was S-L-O-W on the netbook. I’d move the curser on the touchpad and I wouldn’t know when it was going to catch up with my finger. But with UNR, no problem. Also, UNR found all my devices (so far), including sound, Wi-Fi, wired networking, etc. My next test is to put a USB to Bluetooth dongle on it and see how that works out. Hopefully I’ll let you know next week. Highly recommend UNR if you have a netbook; if you just use Internet and email, it’s spot on and easy to configure (and fast!). If you do more, there’s a few issues with screen size and things, but it’s workable (like, say, FarmVille on Facebook. The screen’s a bit small to do any real harvesting!).

I also highly recommend the Acer line of netbooks. The keys are a bit small for real work, but in a pinch you could edit a document or do spreadsheets and graphics. But for travel, nothing beats is for me so far. It could use longer battery life. Maybe a bigger battery?

I’ve also been playing with Google Voice. If you’re interested, I have 5 invitations I could send out. Let me know and I’ll pass it on to you. Shawn has played with it more than I have. One of the cool features I like is that I can SMS people (that’s “texting” for the non-techies our there) from my computer. So I can text with my youngest daughter in Louisiana, her on her iPhone and me on my computer! I need to play more with this, too.

Another item in the “more to follow” category is Google Wave. I’ve been invited to sign up (got the invite yesterday) but with work blocking the install of the Chrome add-in for IE and no other browser available, doing PT after work, and the Pampered Chef party, I didn’t get the chance to do anything yet. More to follow.

As a personal note, my back is starting to do better; either that or my meds are completely masking the pain. I do still have sciatica in my left leg at times. The worst it’s been is like having a wrong-side-out cactus on my leg and foot. Some days I have issues getting in and out of the car, most of them self-induced because I do something like twisting my torso without moving my hips at the same time. Not a good thing to do. I have 10 more PT visits (that’s about 5 more weeks, so almost to the end of the year). I don’t notice any improvement, but my upper body strength has been improving. I also got a Back2Life to try (don’t start on the snake oil comments) and also I have an inversion table that I’ll start using on a regular basis. The neurosurgeon said he didn’t want to see me again, so no surgery which is a good thing. I’m also getting trigger point injections at pain management. I’m beginning to doubt I will get back to 100% of who I was 2 years ago, but I’ll do anything I can do to get closer.

Oh, yeah, I’m using Windows Live Writer to compose these blog posts now. New toy. So far, I’m on the edge with it. I don’t like the way it does paragraphs, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t read the distructions like always. Maybe if I read, I can learn something!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Classic Pro-America Cartoon

Classic Pro-America Cartoon: "

This is an amazing, and timeless cartoon produced by Harding College in 1948!

Everyone in the USA should watch this video and learn from it!

IS the guy in the Zoot suit Obama?

Found by Dodd Vickers.