Six months ago, startup pimp Michael Arrington of TechCrunch put out a call for help on a hardware project, specifically a $200 minimalist web tablet. Lo and behold, his team has made it! Well, one.

This is technically the second prototype, but the first doesn't really bear noting—it barely started, didn't yet resemble the planned project and had a bare-metal accidental Steampunk aesthetic. This, well, this looks pretty close to the concept. The machine boots, browses the net, and operates with only a touchscreen and an onscreen keyboard. Behind the screen is a a Via Nano processor, 1GB of RAM and a 4GB flash drive, running a stock Ubuntu install and a custom WebKit browser (Konquerer with bigger buttons?).

The whole thing works pretty well, and I have to give Arrington props for pushing the project along this far. But! There's a catch:

We were aiming for $200, it looks like $299 is more realistic

and:

The real question for us is whether this project has legs and should go forward towards production units, which is a very big step from a working prototype. That would require spinning the company off from the blog and building a team around Louis. It’s a decision we haven’t made yet.

Yeah, I'd say "are we going to even make this thing?" is a "real question", but even for $300, I kind of hope they do. [TechCrunch]