Can Hardware Development be Crowdsourced?

Looks like the TechCrunch Tablet (the CrunchPad) is coming along nicely. It’s good to see that they’re giving it a shot, at least!

Even with the wide array of netbooks now available from major vendors, there seems to be a place for the CrunchPad – so long as the hardware is up to snuff. A $300 price point is a good one, but I’d be interested in seeing what kind of bezel design options are made available. Or will they be skinnable right off the line?

Maybe that’s what TechCrunch needs to look into: a Zazzle for hardware. Mind you, not every branded product is made of quality materials, but that’s where quality control is important.

Touch screens are also tricky – and battery life will be important to keep in mind as well. They’re going to have to address a wide array of engineering problems that no other netbook / tablet PC manufacturer has been able to solve.

Scoble applauds the way things came together for TechCrunch, testament to crowdsourcing. Well, I’ll tell you that I believe this effort is the exception – not the rule. Most crowdsourcing efforts – 99.9% of them – fail if key individuals aren’t completely drawn-in or compensated immediately. And the more complex the project, the more likely a crowdsourcing endeavor will FAIL. It’s difficult enough to do with software – but with hardware?!

I’m not saying that crowdsourcing projects is an exercise in folly, but if you’re not TechCrunch, I wouldn’t bank on it.

So, here’s to hoping the CrunchPad will be different – like, notably different beyond its inception and vision. What will make it stand out on a store shelf? What will continue to set it apart? What will make it truly better than the competition – which already does a horrible job playing the differentiation game.

I can honestly say that I remember Michael before TechCrunch was TechCrunch (and Scoble before “blog” was a word, for that matter). It’s good to see these true geeks on top.