chumby and televisions

August 1, 2011

When chumby was originally created, one of the company’s key visions was that a time would come when chumby content would proliferate on various devices throughout the home.  While we initially launched chumby as a bean bag with a screen, the thought was that eventually clock radios, picture frames, appliances and TVs would ultimately have chumby content  that would be customized by users and presented in a format that works for those specific devices, seamlessly integrating aspects of our real life with our Internet life.  Steve Tomlin, one of chumby’s founders, said as much in the early days of the company on our blog.

The first device we created had a number of interesting characteristics.  Two of the most important of which were the processing power of the device and the amount of memory available for applications.  Due to these constraints, our engineering team had to come up with clever ways to allow content to be displayed as text and images, but also include music and videos.  We also wanted to create a strong developer community so we had to make sure that whatever we did would allow 3rd parties to create content to run on all of our devices.

In many ways, chumby was a pioneer in what would ultimately become an application ecosystem that today is led by Apple with iOS and Google with the Android OS.  While the ideas are not too dissimilar, there are a couple of key distinctions.  First, we have generally been constrained to the world of sub gigahertz processors.  Second, we have been focused on using simple development frameworks like Flash to create applications.  We recently created an update to our devices and have moved them from the world of Flash Lite 3 to Flash Lite 4 with the accompanying upgrade from AS2 to AS3 which gives our developers much more flexibility.  We still aren’t doing anything near the complexity of Objective C or Java programming, but we always set out to make it easy to develop for chumby devices and have been targeting a different and wider developer base.

Our partnerships with industry leaders like Sony and Best Buy have led us into new areas that have expanded the reach from what we did initially with our own devices and allow us to grow both technically and in the reach of our service.  Our original devices were ARM based devices from Freescale and Marvell.  The Sony Dash is powered by a Sigma MIPS processor which is normally found in televisions and has allowed them to deploy services like Netflix and Hulu.  In the case of Best Buy, our partnership extended to “chumby like” devices including the Infocast 3.5″ and 8″ and digital photo frames.

The partnership with Best Buy also led to chumby’s inclusion in a new product they are currently unveiling as the Insignia Connected Television.  You can read about it here.  With Best Buy, we are furthering our original vision and bringing some of the most advanced applications to televisions.  We have learned some of the lessons from the early pioneers in the connected television space and have also witnessed the great things being done with applications in the mobile and tablet space and feel strongly that we are bringing some of the best possible user experiences to televisions.  Frankly, we would welcome a side-by-side comparison with any other connected TV in the market.  The bottom line for consumers though is that we can easily bring the things you care about including news, weather, sports, social networks and more to your television in an easy to use way.

Our increasing experience with new platforms has led us to the realization that our early pioneering efforts in bringing the Internet and applications to consumer electronics has positioned us uniquely as applications come to televisions.  Because there is great competition in the connected television arena, there is a premium placed on making sure that devices have certain functionality in addition to a greatly reduced cost of manufacturing.  Manufacturers want to bring applications to their televisions but they don’t want to significantly increase the price by putting computer level processors and memories into the devices.  This situation has created an opportunity for chumby because we know better than most how to maximize an application experience in a constrained environment.

In order to work with televisions, we have had to do a number of things like figuring out how to make a user experience that spans screen sizes from 3.5″ to 52″.  We have also had to figure out how to allow consumers to interact with devices using touch-screens and directional pads found on most TV controllers as well as other new forms of inputs using things like accelerometers and smart phones.  We are excited by what we are doing with Best Buy and set top box companies like Pace.  We expect a number of other announcements in the coming weeks and now more than ever are starting to actualize some of the visions which were fundamental in the founding of the company.

Here is a video demo of the television with chumby featured.

 


chumby’s New Big Brother, the chumby8

March 22, 2011

I want to announce that today we are accepting orders for the latest chumby device, the chumby8. The chumby8 builds on the legacy of the chumby classic and the chumby one, bringing the chumby experience to our largest device yet. While chumby fans have loved the first two iterations, there was a lot of interest in a bigger device, especially with the release of the Sony Dash and the Insignia Infocast last year.

Both the Dash and the Infocast are great first cousins to the original chumby devices and while we are fans of both, we felt it important to give our customers a product that was truly a chumby and brought together the things that people expect from our products. In addition to launching a larger product, we are debuting a number of new features on the chumby8 which will be rolled out to all chumby products. Let me elaborate.

For those of you who want to cut to the chase, you can get all the specifics of the new chumby here. Beyond the technical details I want to hit a couple of the high points. First, like it’s predecessors, the chumby8 is open and hackable. We are committed to letting developers hack both the software and hardware to do fun things like people have done with the older devices.  We can’t wait to see what people come up with this time around..

Aside from the technical specs, perhaps the most impressive aspect to the chumby8 is its industrial design. The chumby8 is in the mold of a digital photo frame with a certain Scandinavian-inspired design which consistently excites people when they see it live. The screen is over twice the size of our previous devices and does a great job of showing off the new UI and screen layouts. And it has a unique, rubberized paint finish that has to be felt to appreciated.

So, essentially, the chumby8 is bigger and badder than its predecessors. In addition it has a completely re-worked user interface and experience that builds on lessons learned. One of the biggest new pieces on this chumby is the addition of a browser. There are a number of applications like Twitter, Reddit and Hacker News that really need a browser to complete the experience. Today you would have to fire up your laptop or tablet and find a referenced link but with the new chumby, you can just click on the article and launch a browser. We think this really completes the user experience and we plan to refine the experience over time. Also, as a big shoutout to our current customers, we will be rolling out a browser to the chumby one and we are working on getting browsers on the cousin devices.

TO THE DEVELOPER COMMUNITY — In addition to the dedicated devices, we’re been working to expand the chumby platform to tablets and televisions. In order to do that we have to work with Flash 10.x on tablets, Stagecraft 1.x on televisions as well as Flash Lite 3 on dedicated devices. With the chumby8, we will be rolling out Flash Lite 4, as an OTA upgrade sometime post launch. We have a version that will soon be available as a developer firmware upgrade in order to test applications , but we are addressing a few final issues that will require us to do the upgrade post launch. We didn’t want to delay the product any longer as this does not affect the overall consumer experience. The great thing about Flash Lite 4 is that it enables the development of applications using Action Script 3. We think this is long overdue for our developers and are excited to get it into their hands as soon as possible.

Please let us know what you think and send us your comments and feedback.

Thanks,

Derrick


Happy New Year and see you in Vegas!

December 31, 2010

We have been really busy here at chumby during this holiday season and I wanted to give an update on a number of items that may be of interest to our friends.  We have made a lot of strides with some products that we have announced or partnerships we have been working on.  The first important item for us has been the release of our first software only product with the release of our Android client to the Android marketplace.  Our plan it to distribute this client through partnerships with tablet OEMs next year, but if you want to take a look firsthand, then it can be found in the Marketplace by searching for chumby in the Marketplace or you can use your Android device bar code scanner on our home page to direct your device to the application.  Currently we are charging $4.99 for the download.  We do expect to add some new functionality over time, but for now, we are pretty pleased with the reception.

The second important item has been pretty widely known for a while, but it is that we have continued to push our partnerships with others in new directions.  Over the holiday season Best Buy has released a 3.5 inch Infocast that is a very close cousin of the chumby One.  During the holiday season Best Buy has discounted the device as well as the 8″ Infocast substantially and this has resulted in a lot of new people discovering the world of chumby applications.  In addition to Best Buy, the chumby One is available at Costco online at some pretty attractive prices and has also been in other stores and retailers as well such as J&R electronics in New York.  2011 will see us to continue to push partnerships and also to bring a wider range of devices at different price points and with different types of focus in terms of functionality or use cases.

The third important item I wanted to share was about some of the core changes to our existing software for devices already in the field.  Our team has been hard at work on a number of items that we will announce next year, but I wanted to let you know that they are in the works.  Browsers will be coming to a number of the chumby powered devices in 2011.  While we are not ready to roll it out just yet, we have been deep in testing a webkit based browser on our existing platforms.  We have a pretty high degree of confidence that we will be able to get this on most of the devices we work with although there may be some restrictions that we are not able to overcome on the chumby Classic.  Once this is in place, we will be able to do things like allow people to click on URLs from the Twitter application, validate devices on university or hotel networks, and do on device registration for services like Facebook that require web based authentication.  While we have always been able to bring a slice of the Internet to our users, this will really open the doors about what is possible going forward with these devices.

In addition to our work on browsers, we have been busy upgrading our Flash based distribution for our devices.  Again, we are not ready to roll it out just yet, but look for us to roll out Flash Lite 4 and Action Script 3 sometime in early 2011.  We are currently holding a contest for AS3 based applications that we want to showcase when we launch.  You can find the details here.  Like the browser situation we may not be able to hit all of our legacy platforms, but we are hoping to cover as many as possible.  We will let you know more when we get close.

One item that I wanted to also talk about is content on chumby.  We are talking with a number of partners about new services that we want to bring to the devices including new music sources, and new applications like telephony and other things that we think would be of interest to our users.  We want to make sure that we keep making the devices you bought, more interesting and capable of doing more things than when you originally bought them.  Witness for example Sony rolling out services like Hulu Plus in the last couple of months.  While we expect to add a lot of new content, there are times where some of the content we have in our system may become unavailable or may change in ways that we don’t necessarily like.  While services like Android Marketplace and the App store from Apple actually download applications to your phone or tablet, our services are much more similar to a web browser and are in fact streamed from the cloud.

A byproduct of that different nature is that we can’t control what our partners want to do.  On the web, sites change.  Some like Delicious get acquired and may ultimately get shuttered much to the dismay of users like me.  Others move to pay walls in places like the news industry and users have to make a decision about whether or not it is useful for them to pay for the service which I do in the case of the Wall Street Journal.  Other services like Sirius XM require add on charges for using their service on devices like my Sonos or Android phone.  While it is our hope to continue to keep much of the content on our system free, the reality is that some of our partners have different realities or changes in strategies that we will have to deal with over time.  One prime example of that for us this week has been the discontinuation of our current relationship with The Weather Channel.  While they have been a great partner and one of our most popular applications, our agreement with them expires today and we didn’t feel that the economic terms that they require were sustainable for our business and will not be making their content available going forward.  In 2011 we plan on making the support of different business models an option so that users can do things like pay for services like theirs directly, or find other ways to reach mutually agreeable business terms.

Unfortunately though for the moment, those pieces aren’t in place, and we will be providing new alternative services to replace content that is no longer available.  In the case of weather we will be looking for new partnerships and will be allowing users to switch over to the NOAA application as a replacement option.  We will have the details out to people shortly

So that is some of the news around chumby HQ.  We will be at CES in force and will have some more specific news to share.  We thank you for all your support and wish you and your family a wonderful 2011.

 


A little retro fun

October 25, 2010

When I was at my last company, we had a hard time in the early days explaining what we did to our potential partners at the wireless operators.  We would commonly say that we were doing stuff at the intersection of mobile blogging and social networking.  That would generally result in quizzical expressions and  the simple statement of, “Huh?”  Over time, as social networking became something that people understood, we could say things like, “It’s like Myspace.”  and then people would get it.

When I told some of my friends and relatives about chumby, I would be met with the same curious look from those days long ago.  Sometimes I would ask them if they heard of Dash and then they would say, “Oh, I get it, they have some of your stuff inside.”  Yeah.  Other times they would smile still and not really know what I was talking about.  The obvious big barrier in that case is that people need to see a piece of hardware from us, or Sony or Best Buy to have that visceral moment of understanding.

Today we released a fun piece of software to help people understand what a chumby looks like without having to have the hardware.  If you want to see what a Windows PC would look like as a chumby, you can look at this post here to get the details.  While this is meant to be mostly fun, I think it is also a good foreshadowing of some of the things we will be releasing in the coming months that help people understand what chumby means as a software platform and not just a hardware platform.

For those hardware fans who like things like chumby being converted to a robot, please don’t fear as we have a couple of new hardware things up our sleeve as well that we hope to share with you soon.

In the meantime, if you were ever a fan of flying toasters or other novel ways to protect your PC from “screen burn in”, feel free to put the chumby screen saver on your computer and give it a try.


I have always been a fan of gadgets…

October 21, 2010

It was probably inevitable that I ended up being the CEO of a company like chumby industries.  Certainly being an entrepreneur is a requirement for a job like this, but I think a simple survey of my house and office are pretty telling about what I do with my free time.  In my living room I have a 42″ Plasma HDTV that I bought before LCD was as inexpensive as it is today.  In the cabinets underneath the television are an assortment of devices.  First there is a Direct TV HD DVR.  Right on top of the DVR is a Roku box that my kids use to stream Netflix to their heart’s content.  In the cabinet next to the DVR and the Roku is my 1st generation Apple TV box that we use to buy first run movies and we also turn on my Flickr photostream when company is over to run a background of family photos.

In the kitchen I currently have a Sony Dash that I like to check out in the morning when I am making coffee or on the weekend when I am cooking.  Next to the Dash is my Sonos S5.  I love the Sonos and use it to play my big media collection but also to stream Pandora and Sirius XM.  Across the room on the other television is my PS3, which is used by my kids for Rockband and for me to play Madden and NCAA football.  On top of the TV area is an old school TV and a DVD player.

In my garage I have the main control center for technology which includes my Slingbox, a Time Capsule router, a Sonos router, a Vonage ATA and an assortment of hard drives and a first generation Mac mini that acts as the main sys admin computer (that would be me).

In my office I am currently looking at my iPad which is charging in its dock.  On the shelf behind me is my Acer Aspire One and an XO Laptop (I love that industrial design).  Scattered on the ledge in front of me are the Nokia N770, the N800 and a first generation Mylo.  They are mostly reminders of the past.  Around the rest of my workspace are a couple of chumby devices and a Infocast DPF.

So without going through any of my other rooms I think you can probably gather at this point that A. I am an early adopter and B . I really love technology in all its various incarnations.  With that said, I hope that you can appreciate how excited I am to be here at chumby to move into the next phase of the company.

As for me personally, I have been blogging sporadically since 2004 and you can find my mostly current blog here.  I was a very early user of Twitter (@Derrick).  I am an active and avid user of a number of social sites like Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare and I am always excited to see the new products and technologies people are bringing to the web and to mobile devices.

As far as what I have done professionally, I have pretty much been an executive in technology related companies since the late 90s.  This includes being the COO at MP3.com, President at Vivendi Universal’s Internet Music Group (Mp3.com, Rollingstone.com, emusic, GetMusic), founder and President at Intercasting Corporation and Senior Vice President at Good Technology for the last year after the acquisition of Intercasting by Good.  My experience runs across digital music, advertising, wireless, social media and enterprise mobile software.

Rather than run on and talk about where I see things headed with chumby industries, which I will do in a later post, I just mostly wanted to say hello, and look forward to bringing some great new products to market and making our existing products better for our current users.  I look forward to the fun times ahead.  Feel free to email me any comments or suggestions anytime at derrick@chumby.com .


welcome derrick oien, chumby’s new ceo!

September 23, 2010

chumby has a new head chumbian!  We’re delighted to announce that Derrick Oien has joined chumby industries as our new president and chief executive officer.  Derrick takes the helm at chumby as the company continues its growth and adds new functionality, new devices, and new partners.  So you’ll soon see the unique chumby streaming personalized internet media platform in many more places.  Expect Derrick to post on this blog soon introducing himself to all of you in the chumby community.

Company co-founder and former president and ceo, Steve Tomlin (i.e., your faithful scribe for all of these years), assumes the role of chairman of chumby industries and returns to his role as a partner at Avalon Ventures.

[So this blog is now Derrick's, but maybe he'll let me guest-post from time to time :^)]


Insignia Infocast is just another digital picture frame… or is it? ;^)

September 17, 2010

Perhaps more to this chumby-powered product than meets the eye.  And funny how none of this is mentioned on the packaging. ;^) ;^)

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/09/170-linux-tablet/

Not really a “tablet” because not really mobile — but perhaps something closer to the “Network Computer” that Oracle evangelized in the late 90s.  But with a touch screen… And chumby apps… And a lot more.

Certainly not for everyone, and not a replacement for your desktop PC… but very cool that this is available on the shelves of every Best Buy store, or here, for under $170! When was the last time you bought an inexpensive consumer electronics device and it turned out to be a lot more powerful than you thought?

If you actually want to try this hack (and not for the timid or anyone who is concerned about warranties), go here for more info.


chumby everywhere…

July 12, 2010

…as discussed in a recent Forbes.com piece on us by Elizabeth Woyke.

Of course for those of you following along at home, you knew this was coming:

http://chumby.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/chumby-the-application-platform/

http://chumby.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/1-billion-chumby-apps-served-monthly-and-growing-fast/

http://chumby.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/chumby-breaks-free-from-its-italian-leather-bonds/

http://chumby.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/chumby-redefined-at-ces/

So, yes, you will see chumby on more devices this year.  The Sony dash and the Insignia Infocast are just the beginning.  We’ll have chumby running on Android so that even more devices will be “chumby-powered.”

Of course you don’t have to wait for the chumby revolution to come to a product near you, you can get on-board right away. Buy a chumby one now right here:  https://store.chumby.com/.


A brief history of “internet appliances”

July 6, 2010

Ina Fried of c|net writes an article, long overdue, on the history of so-called internet appliances.

We look at them now and find them amusing, like early experimental airplanes.  And it’s amazing to think how far we’ve come.  Rather than a “computer lite,” we now think of these types of devices as useful add-ons to a well-accepted broadband computer experience.  It’s no longer about making a “computer for dummies,” but rather about delivering more internet-based content to us in more ways and more places:  the true always-on, at-a-glance internet.  With your microwave oven and your coffee maker already telling you the time (the wrong time in my case), why not embed weather, traffic, and tweets as well.  Lower-cost electronics and nearly ubiquitous wi-fi, as well as content we actually care about, has made the early internet appliance entrepreneurs’ vision come true.

Someday, perhaps like air travel, ubiquitous internet content will be considered pedestrian rather than esoteric and quirky.


chumby, the application *platform*

June 22, 2010

Those of you who follow this blog know that chumby isn’t just a device company.  Yes, we’re proud to have invented what, we understand, is becoming known as the “Internet Media Display” category with the original chumby classic and the chumby one. But the important thing to understand from us is that chumby is a capability rather than simply a product.  With chumby, any connected screen can automatically broadcast to you your weather, your news, photos of your friends and family, your favorite Pandora Radio stations, the latest from your Facebook news feed or Twitter stream, and can remind you how great Chuck Norris is or how cute baby owls can be.

Sony’s dash was the first big example of chumby working with a top consumer electronics company to bring chumby applications and services to a mainstream retail product available at a store near you.  We worked with Sony to bring certain aspects of the chumby experience, combined with some unique Sony capabilities and content, to a new device with a very compelling form-factor.

Now, with Best Buy’s launch of the Infocast under their private label Insignia brand, we have another example of how chumby works with top consumer electronic companies to create compelling new connected experiences — in this case a product that goes well beyond what anyone else has ever done in the connected digital photo frame space.  Soon we’ll do a separate post on this amazing new device.  As bunnie Huang has revealed, this product has some very special capabilities under the hood (hackers only:  likely to void your warranty).  Because it has so many capabilities and so much power, and priced at $169.99, this isn’t intended to be Granny’s photo frame, but I suspect she’ll love it anyway, and, if she’s a hacker, it will certainly dust her dentures :^)

You will continue to see chumby showing up on a wide range of connected consumer electronic products from top manufacturers and on devices from bedside clock radios, to digital photo frames, to home control and energy monitoring panels (an especially exciting new category), to connected televisions.  chumby is unique among application platforms for these types of devices — we’re both interactive (i.e., you can poke at the screen and make things happen) but we also automatically stream your content (i.e., you don’t *have* to poke at the screen if you’re busy or across the room, it just keeps playing).  With 1500 apps from top content companies and independent developers, written in Flash and designed to look great on screens of all sizes and orientations, there’s always something good to watch and fresh new apps all the time.  And once you create your own personal channel of chumby apps, they’ll happily play on *any* chumby-powered device: nothing to download, no app stores, no fees.

If you’re a consumer, buy a chumby or a dash or an Infocast.  Or buy all three — they all play your chumby apps.

If you’re a consumer electronics manufacturer, contact us to get chumby on your connected products.  We can help you with electronics (we have multiple hardware reference designs that are ready for high-volume manufacturing), software and interface design, as well as a full suite of compelling consumer applications and services.  We’ll even power the chumby app network for your devices from our own servers.

chumby, coming to a connected screen near you.


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