Chumby Industries Gears Up to Bring the Internet Nearly Everywhere

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 23, 2009

Though 2009 has only just begun, it looks like this year's going to be a busy one for Chumby Industries. The makers of the hackable, completely open, Linux-based, internet-enabled, so-much-more-than-an-alarm-clock -- well, alarm clock -- have announced a number of partnerships since January's Consumer Electronics Show.

The first two partnerships, with Samsung and Marvell, bring the widget-based Chumby platform to digital photo frames and similar embedded devices. The latest partnership, with Broadcom Corporation, aims to bring the Chumby platform to internet-enabled televisions, set top boxes, and Blu-Ray players.

Broadcom, Samsung, and Marvell are bundling their processors with the Chumby Reference Design, an open, Linux-based platform. Widgets are developed in Adobe Flash or third-party programs able to produce Flash Lite compatible files. Widgets are then uploaded to the Chumby Network, for Chumby (and now Chumby Reference Design powered device) owners to run on their hardware.

I inquired earlier how the new devices in the Chumby-powered family would handle widget display. One of the (few) fairly immutable aspects of the traditional Chumby is its LCD size and display capabilities. Not only is widget appearance (and function) dependant on different display resolutions, the original Chumby incorporates an accelerometer -- which, for obvious reasons, most set top boxes and Blu-Ray players shy away from. A spokesperson for Chumby Industries said they plan to configure the Chumby Network such that when new Chumby Reference Design devices are activated, the user is only offered those widgets that are fully compatible with their hardware. As the Chumby Reference Design devices hit the market, the Chumby developer wiki will be updated to help widget designers create applications that work on the widest range of devices, or optimize their widgets for one particular device.

The original Chumby, in its beanbag, potato-shaped form factor, wasn't necessarily aesthetically appealing to many -- though its function might have been. While owners were encouraged to change its appearance, that required a certain amount of artistic ability. Bundling Chumby's features and function into devices with a more conventional look could pay off for both Chumby Industries and the hardware manufacturers. Though some question how popular an internet-enabled television featuring widgets could really be, digital photo frames that are easy to use -- and offer more than slideshows -- could bring this vibrant (and open) technology into nearly any home.