Glad I was right about Chumby


Right in time for the holiday season, Chumby Industries released the Chumby 1, a newer and cheaper version of the original Chumby that came out a few years back. Like it’s predecessor, it offers a large amount of free widget content including access to web based services folks use on regular basis: Facebook, Pandora, and Gmail to name a few. So why does the new Chumby offer a glimmer of light to what could be the start of some mass appeal? Because (in my opinion) they did a few of the things I pointed out in my post from two years ago aptly named “The Chumby Dilemma

First they made it cheaper. The original used to be $180 bucks, this new one is $120 shipped. I actually bought two of them on holiday promotion for $99. They’re right there on the price threshold now, $99-$120 is more than reasonable for all the great things the Chumby does.

Second, they changed the design of the enclosure making it seem like it belongs in rooms other than the bedroom (was never a fan of the pillowish enclosure). They put a battery case in it (battery sold separately) so you could take it around the house. Basically, they made it feel like a hell of a lot more than an internet alarm clock, which it is.

So while I’m sure this cuts into their margins a bit, they made the product more enticing and salable by changing the easiest things. The brilliance is truly in the software and Flash based channels and I hope they focus and continue to grow that. So go buy one, it’s a fantastic device that has a special place set aside on my kitchen counter.

By the way, people are doing some really cool things in hacking the Chumby. You can see a list of all sorts of mods and hacks here on this wiki page. A favorite is this one recently featured on Hackaday:


It’s not the devices, it’s the gaps


So now that the iPad craziness has blown over, want to comment on yet another disruptive product from Apple. This time we’re in a “tween” segment, or somewhere between your desktop/laptop, your mobile, your e-reader…. Wow, a lot of devices to carry right? And where does the iPad fit, or for that matter, where do any of your current devices fit in relationship to it?

There is a lot going on these days with companies abstracting the traditional PC experience away from devices to create targeted customer user experiences. Sometimes this is due to hardware restrictions in smaller underpowered devices (phones, e-readers), sometime it’s due to creating more portable entertainments platforms for folks to consume content with (netbooks, litl). The problem is, each of these devices meet only some of a customer’s needs at a premium price. Some customers don’t want a to use a PC for glance content, but may prefer the litl for it’s large format, channel content delivery. Some customers won’t read a book or watch a movie on their iPhone, but the iPad might be perfect for that. Some folks want to run Word or Blog, but prefer a keyboard rather than a tocuhscreen. So you have all these different devices that do these things at a different efficiency level. To many devices and too many segments/needs to serve.

In essence, it feels like the iPad will be a niche product, but falls far short of a convergence device. The good thing about it is that it will force the carriers to adopt more affordable data plans. It will also force the lower end devices like the Nook and the Kindle to become cheaper. Frankly, both these devices look overpriced compared to what you get for your $499 iPad. Either way it still feels like we’re in the days where you needed to carry your laptop, pda, mp3 player, and camera. Too many to devices to serve all your needs.