So as many of you already know, chumbys are shipping … to “Insiders.” Insiders are those of you who have submitted their email address to us on the Chumby web site, who we then respond to via email (it is taking us some time, there are a lot of you!), who pay $179.95 (that includes shipping and handling, but not California sales tax) for a chumby in their choice of colors, and who then wait what I believe is 3 to 5 days (chumbys are air-shipped directly from China — “The World is Flat”) before it arrives at their door. Those who have gone through this process and received their chumbys seem pretty happy — and many are blogging and commenting about their positive experiences. We’re delighted to hear that. Many more of you are patiently, and some not so patiently, waiting to hear back from us — we appreciate your interest and we’re going as fast as we can to get you your chumbys.
As stated previously, this “Insider’s Launch” will last through October and probably a bit into November. It’s important for us to manage production against demand in this way, and we also want to make sure that we can provide each chumby buyer with a high quality of customer service. This is important to us and we seem to be getting good marks on this so far — great job, guys! :^)
A couple of big things will occur in November. We plan to open wide the Chumby Store so anyone can buy a chumby right away, without having to wait. [UPDATE, 11/1/07: based upon below, i.e., the series of functional OTA software updates, we may actually extend the Insider’s Release through December before making chumbys available to the general public — stay tuned, and make sure you get on the Contact Me List to become an Insider.] When this happens, it will obviously be a big day for us and we’re getting the coffee brewed in preparation. The paced launch now is an effort to make sure the hatches are fully battened-down for this moment.
I’m even more excited about another event. Sometime in November (code, lads, code!), we’re going to push automatically and over-the-air to each chumby a big functional update [UPDATE, 11/1/07: we’ll now probably be doing this in a series of smaller updates through November and December rather than in something more monolithic in November]. The chumby you bought will automatically become even better, much better, in terms of cool new features and functionality. You will have bought a chumby that did “A,” only to discover that it now does “A,” “B,” and “C” — sorry, we’re not saying yet what “B” and “C” are, we have to leave a few surprises. You won’t have to do anything to make this happen and it won’t cost you a dime. Your chumby will just magically be even better. And this is going to continue to happen. You buy a chumby now and we labor our butts off to keep making it better for you, automatically. And this is just us, Chumby Industries. I’m really looking forward to the day when an enormous community of innovators takes matters into their own hands and also starts creating enhancements to chumbys. For example, there’s a little microphone in the front bezel of each chumby. We don’t currently do anything with that. But we will :^) Others will too :^) :^)
I have a huge box full of now-obsolete electronic devices. It pains me to throw them away, so I haven’t (yet), but they’re just pretty useless now. Our goal is to make sure that your chumby is better next year than it is this year. And better still the year after that. Certainly there are limits to what software upgrades can accomplish, even in the hands of a community of innovators, but we’re excited to push on this as far as we can and see where it goes.
But the future of your chumby doesn’t stop there. We are already working on a number of plug-in hardware enhancements. Each chumby has 2 USB ports in the back. These can already be used as “attached storage” for a variety of purposes, e.g., plug in your iPod (we sure hope that Apple doesn’t disable this somehow) to hear your music and charge your player.
Here’s my current favorite chumby self-enhancement (AKA, a beginner “hack.”) You can take any mp3-formatted audio file, name that file “alarm1.mp3” (or “alarm2.mp3” for the secondary alarm), save it to a USB thumbdrive/memory stick, plug that USB thumbdrive into one of the USB ports on the back of your chumby, and set your chumby’s alarm to go off at a certain time. When it does, you hear your own custom “alarm tone” of that mp3 file you created (mine is presently a driving loop of The Ramones singing, “Hey, Ho, Let’s Go…Hey, Ho, Let’s Go” from Blitzkreig Bop but that’s starting to get old, so I’m going to change it to James Brown singing a loop of “Get up, get on up…Get up, get on up!”) Okay, hardly world-changing, but still fun and so easy even I can do it.
More USB-enabled hardware add-ons are coming from us, both real products that add capability to your chumby and other cool little hacks — so stay-tuned.
And then of course there’s the content, the “widgets” that chumbys play. There are a bunch of widgets for you now: some are really well done, fun and interesting; others aren’t very good or just not my cup of tea. That’s “user-generated content” for you. But nowhere near enough. We need more! We have our own Chumby widget creation group (Flash artists and programmers — let us know if you think you’re good enough to join us and become one) creating more cool widgets all the time, and a number of big well-known, and some great but lesser-known, content partners are working on some awesome Chumby widgets too. So the content is only going to get better, deeper and more varied. Because the chumby is the first available device that runs Adobe’s latest version of embedded Flash (called “Flash Lite 3”), the worldwide Flash development creative community is excited and trying their hands at creating Chumby widgets, including those that run video and streaming audio.
But you are widget creators too! You can go to the Chumby web site and create cool Flashcan e-greeting cards and share them with your Chumby “chums” (I am loving “munkey-gogo” and “kung fu.”) All different styles, and some of them burp, jam and squeal — it ain’t Hallmark. We’re working with a bunch of partners to make even more widget creation utilities available so you can craft and share your own cool widgets with your Chumby friends: photo and video “mash-ups,” slideshows, games, e-invites, you name it. The chumby was designed to be always-on and, unlike your PC or cellphone, just for fun — mix, mash, hack, share and amuse.
The journey is just starting and the bus keeps getting better. Hop on.