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.