Before Google showed off Chrome OS, essentially the Chrome Browser running on top of an ultra-lite Linux Kernal, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington tried to will something very similar into existence -- a capacitive touchscreen CrunchPad tablet that would run Firefox and nothing else.

The rumored price tag rose and "delays" seemed to abound, and now it looks like the little CrunchPad that almost could will never be:

Bizarrely, we were being notified that we were no longer involved with the project. Our project. [partner and Fusion Garage CEO, Chandra Rathakrishnan] 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.

Like the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Microsoft Courier proof-of-concept, we were really interested to see more attempts to define this still nebulous "tablet" style device, and given the browser-centric nature of the CrunchPad in particular, it would certainly have niche appeal (we're looking at ourselves there).

We'll keep some hope, however, that Arrington can find a new partner. (Maybe a Google sponsored Chrome OS CrunchPad?) If for no other reason then to help faster shake-out this space before (and if) Apple enters it with an iTablet...