Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

The great Chumby debate!

For those of you that havn’t seen it you can find a chumby here Chumby

The lowdown

  • Wi-fi connectivity • access to the free Chumby Network • 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen • two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports • 350 MHz ARM processor • 64 MB SDRAM • 64 MB NAND flash ROM • stereo 2W speakers • headphone output • squeeze sensor • accelerometer (motion sensor) • leather casing • AC adapter included
  • The dimensions are: 5 1/2″ wide, 4 1/4″ tall, 3 1/4″ deep at the base, and 2 1/4″ deep at the top. Here’s the chumby next to a regular size coffee cup.
  • Plug it in, connect to your wireless network, and use your computer to choose a playlist of “widgets” (the bite-sized applications that run on a chumby)
  • Because it’s always on, the chumby must be plugged in to an AC outlet.
  • The chumby costs $179.95.

The Functionality

Widgets, Screens and Power cables, Ohhhh my! So they are marketing a Widget panel. That’s cool so you can take your widgets with you right? Wrong! it has to be plugged in at all times because it NEVER goes into sleep mode. Not like the pesky iPhone or Nintendo DS. So as long as you are near WiFi and an outlet you will always have weather and email, unlike your laptop. On there website one of the selling points is that it can hook op to your iPod and be a boombox, ony one problem, the songs shuffle and you cannot choose what to play.

The Look

It’s beautiful…. I mean i look at it and see a Lexus Headrest with a LCD mounted in it, don’t you.chumby with mug
It looks so soft you probably want to hold it while you watching Tv on the couch (i hope there is an AC outlet close). The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhones.

Saving the best for last

More amazing than the device itself is the company that produces it. They will defend the product to the ends of the earth, here are some quotes the Chumby senior team;

the chumby is always in a state of continuous improvement — that’s the real innovation here — and it challenges the point-in-time judgment model (”Am I glad I bought this product or not?” “Was it worth the money?” “Here’s what’s good and what’s bad about this product!”) With Chumby, you’re buying into an “open development vector.” Huh? How in Hell does someone review or pass judgment on that? There’s the rub.

Anyone who got one of our early alpha prototypes, and complains that it was very limited, ummmm, didn’t we mention at the time that it was *alpha* hardware? — should be judged on what works, not on what doesn’t work, i.e., it was an early “proof of concept,” not a finished product. And, by that standard, people who understood what this stage means *loved” it.

Carping about the limitations of a free prototype seems ungrateful at best. But…whatever…wait until all the teenagers in your neighborhood have one, check it out, and then let us all know what you think.

Don’t want to belabor this, and sorry if I’m grumpy and “un-PR” about the topic, but the prototypes were expensive for a start-up and were offered with the very specific and stated quid pro quo that people who took them o requested them needed to be willing to do something of value for us in return — hack it, write widgets for it, play with it and blog about it, provide *informed* feedback after some reasonable expereice with it, whatever.

My Thoughts

Chumby is trying to compete in a niche market, they are a very small San Diego startup. Microsoft has tried the same thing with there SideShow devices at a $80 price and still hasn’t been able to make it work. I love the line that said “wait until all the teenagers on your street have one”, well, on my street everyone has iPhones, the funny thing is they have a battery, there always connected to the internet, they play video, they have widgets and ooh yea, i almost forgot, IT’S A PHONE!!!

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