Are chumbys for sale, or what?

December 5, 2007

We’ve always sort of seen Chumby Industries as a different kind of consumer electronics company, with a different kind of development model. As great as we think this new model is — and hopefully a new, better, more satisfying and less wasteful direction for the industry where hardware platforms are open and the user community can enhance and extend the products they buy — it creates some interesting challenges and expectations from the legacy model for how things are done. What do you do with a hardware product that’s always improving and never “feature-complete?” When do you start selling it without risk of disappointing its buyers? If you start selling it to early buyers, what do you do about reviewers who want to report upon it as if it were a final and finished product? After all, that’s all they really ever see — essentially completed products, presented for judgment: “Here you go. So is it good or bad?” In contrast, 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.

Some reviewers/blog-posters get this idea, and are pretty excited about it; some others don’t really understand it. Fortunately, most of the reviewers who don’t quite get the nature of this development model still like the chumby they’ve purchased. This is great — because they’re going to be ecstatic as we continue to improve it. Fortunately our early chumby buyers seem to be delighted too. Again, they ain’t seen nothing yet — and the good news is that they didn’t buy too early. The “Insiders Launch” chumby that Insiders buy now is identical to what buyers are going to get when we start selling more openly and publicly early next year. The software isn’t complete (it never will be) and it keeps getting updated, for free, automatically and over-the-air, with new and exciting features. For the latest example of this continuous improvement, check out our Forum to find out which new capabilities Insiders are getting an early look at — other than that, I’m sworn to secrecy for a couple more weeks ;^)

Insider buyers get to see their chumby’s new features and capabilities hot out of the oven — but they have to be prepared for these to be still somewhat half-baked at first. Of course they can always, or at some point may have to, simply “dial-back” to the earlier software that runs reliably — and we’ve tried to make this process super-easy. So feel free to buy a chumby now if what you want is to get in early and buy an unfinished product (again, this is a bit arbitrary because the cool thing about the chumby is that it’s always unfinished, always getting better), and if you want to be part of this new development model. Early chumby Insider buyers are very active on our Forum and we’re listening very closely to their feedback in order to improve the product for general release — many of the things they’ve asked for have already been automatically added to the product. However, if what you really want before you part with your $179.95 (includes shipping and handling) is the chumby’s software in its more complete and polished state, you can wait. As the Doritos ad goes, “We’ll make more.”

We have a ton of requests from the Press to get review copies of the chumby and we’re requesting that, even though we’re already selling early chumbys to Insiders, they wait until early next year when the product is ready for them to evaluate it. Some members of the Press are buying their own chumbys and writing reviews anyway. That’s fine with us, only we do remind them that reviews written now are, from a feature and capabilities standpoint, quickly rendered out-of-date. So we’re hoping that current reviewers will update their analyses and posts as they see their chumby developing over the next few weeks. Let the world know what you think of this new model. Maybe the best way for the press to review continuously improving products is not with newsprint but with continuously updated blogs :^)


16 Responses to “Are chumbys for sale, or what?”

  1. Tom Says:

    I want the Chumby to succeed it is a brilliant idea. As it becomes cheaper I want 24 of them with each one connected to a web cam in each time zone so i can see the sun rising around the globe.

    Make it happen

  2. tabrez Says:

    The first thing that needs to be done is support international shipping. Almost 50% of those who ask me if I recommend Chumby to them or not feel disappointed when told that if they are not from US, it doesn’t matter at this point because they can’t get it anyway. Amazon, Dynamism…somebody should be able to ship them internationally. I know it is already a very high priority at Chumby but IMO it should have the highest priority.

    Great device and I am loving it(my review got to the Digg home page with 700 diggs, so a LOT of interest out there!)

  3. JoeBorn Says:

    Good Luck with us, and let us all know how it goes. As you know, we face the same exact dilemma at Neuros, and it sounds like have had a fairly similar experience. We tried to coin a term Gamma to describe finished hardware and evolving software, which is somewhat different that what you’re doing at Chumby, but if you guys have language we can all share to describe this new phenomenon, we’ll be happy to use it! Consumer/press education is key, and any shorthand we can develop will help.

  4. FJ Says:

    Get it on
    They ship internationally and are a great partner for us (I work for Neuros Technology and like Chomby, we make an open source product, the Neuros OSD).
    I will actually recommend the unit to them, Best of luck guys.


  5. Van Says:

    Simply follow the balance of innovation and upgrading that Apple has in the past – offer larger increments, but don’t release your product until you feel it is _ready to garner the reviews that you’re looking for – and you should have the same wild success that they’ve had. Best of luck!

  6. james Says:

    testing comments!

  7. Dave Eaton Says:

    I’ve been watching you guys for a while, and I am really excited by the business and product model you are trying to create.

    I am quite sure you are going to have a lot of people “not get it”. To some of us, though, this is a dream come true- a consumer product that will bend to our will, that will be an outlet for our own ideas. Fantastic.

    It’s early yet, and half the fun (from the outside) is seeing if you guys can pull this off. If nothing else, you will have performed a really seminal experiment. But I think that there is the chance that Chumby will become a definitional example of a new kind of product.

  8. JohnJones Says:

    I get it but please dont delude yourself your in the CE market and to succeed your going to have take into account the mantra of
    “get big, get niche, or get out”

    I suspect to even get internationally you are going to have to ship by the pallet load that means partners (or distributors as people insist on calling them ;-) they then can manage the returns and sales process (the more expensive items in a company in terms of person hours if you outsource production to the far east) thats pretty easy if you have done it before and know a network but its hard to build one

    I really like what you guys are doing but can see some pitfalls and if you want any advice feel free to contact me

    here hoping for your success


    John jones

  9. Paul Hart Says:

    Yeah I’d agree with international shipping being the highest priority. I got an insiders invite to purchase but being based in the the UK I was sorely disappointed :-(

  10. I’m excited to learn that you are shipping. My laboratory Minciu Sodas is organizing the development of Includer a device for Africans and others with marginal Internet access to be able to read and write emails which they can then upload at their Internet cafe and thereby participate in online community. We’re also taking the open source hardware approach and very interested in dissecting the Chumby and adapting it. I hope we might work together! and perhaps you know who might like to work with us?

  11. Ganson Says:

    As far as international shipping goes, that is the easy part. Getting the Chumby approved in those other countries that is the hard and expensive part (it is a wireless device, and has to adhere to each countries standards and laws like any WiFi enabled device).

  12. Vikram D Says:

    Will chumby support the google android OS and Application APIs?
    That could be really cool. Please ??

  13. Itdoessuck Says:

    There is international shipping; if you pay a scalper an extra $50 over the real price you can buy one on eBay. AFAIK “Chumby” will not accept USA money orders; only USA-based credit cards.

    So if you want to have one shipped to a friend in USA by sending this company a money order “Chumby Industries” has figured out how to screw you on that one too. PayPal? – nope. It’s bizzare; almost as if they’re trying very hard to keep anyone who doesn’t live in the USA from buying one. I can just hear their evil laugh; Bwaa Ha Ha haaaaa!!!!

  14. Team Roster Says:

    You you could edit the blog subject title Are chumbys for sale, or what? chumblog to more specific for your content you create. I loved the blog post withal.

  15. I just thought I would let you know that it looks like your RSS feed is not working right.

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