Fusion Garage, the soon-to-be-subsidiary of TechCrunch that’s building the OS for the CrunchPad, has a comically ridiculous motto:
What if the browser could boot without an OS? How different would the world be?
I’ll try to answer this question.
Technically, they’re probably just bundling a minimal, fast-booting OS (with a fast-booting BIOS, presumably, that can quickly wake from sleep) with a browser as the only application. They’re most likely not writing their own kernel or basic frameworks, since they can just use GNU stuff and Linux. And they’re definitely not writing their own browser, because that would be insurmountable by such a small team (and really stupid). They talk about running Flash, so it’s almost definitely just a stripped-down Linux distribution with the minimum support required to run a GUI, a custom-chromed Firefox (or Konquerer?), and an on-screen keyboard. So the OS is there — it just hopefully gets out of your way and you don’t need to know about it.
It seems like the worst combination of two products:
- Netbooks: Extremely small, cheap, low-end laptops, usually running Linux.
- Slate-type tablet PCs: Laptops without keyboards that run normal applications but rely on touch- or pen-input directly on their screens.
Geeks think both products are awesome and will take over the world, but neither have come close. The CrunchPad is much more like a slate-tablet than a netbook, but without the software flexibility. It has the terrible hardware of netbooks with the impracticality of not having a keyboard. If you’re going to spend $300 on a small, limited computer that you’ll only ever use for web browsing, I don’t see why you’d get a CrunchPad instead of a netbook. (An iPod Touch would probably be a much better choice than either.)
The presumption that this will change the world, at least on the software side, seems predicated on an implied shortcoming of browsers requiring operating systems. I don’t see why this is a problem, nor do I see how this would solve such a problem even if it existed.
Back to the original question: How different will the world be if they actually release this thing?
Well, Michael Arrington will have less money and a handful of geeks will have a $300 slate-netbook that they use a few times before it gets tossed in their gadget pile because everything it does is better accomplished with something else.
That’s about it.