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How soon will TechCrunch unveil the CrunchPad Tablet?

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Popular Mechanics magazine has dished out its 2009 Breakthrough Awards – prizes intended to highlight innovative work in the field of technology. Most of the top ten list was pretty straightforward: The Palm Pre, the Nikon Coolpix S1000PJ. But one item on the list, the TechCrunch CrunchPad Tablet, caught the attention of the blogosphere.

Here's the blurb from the Popular Mechanics website:

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Tech blogger Michael Arrington wanted a low-cost tablet computer—something to handle basic Web-oriented tasks from the comfort of his couch. No company offered one, so he designed it himself. The Linux-based PC, which is edging toward release, is promising—but the best part is the proof that today a tech fanboy can take the director’s chair and quickly prototype a smarter product.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Problem: Michael Arrington never announced a release date for the CrunchPad Tablet. Furthermore, TechCrunch has been pretty cagey when it comes to specs.

If the CrunchPad Tablet does hit shelves before the end of the year, it could find itself face to face with a possible Apple Tablet. Rumors have an Apple offering priced at under $900, with a sizable touch-screen and a raft of e-reading features.

As Gregory M. Lamb of the Monitor noted in a recent story, the difference between computers, netbooks, and phones is shrinking fast. “The cost is becoming similar, with the priciest smart phones now more expensive than the cheapest netbooks (about $300). Wireless carriers are beginning to add netbook plans, plunging the cost of a netbook with a service plan to as low as $50, similar to discounted phones if users sign up for a contract,” Lamb writes.

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