RIP Chumby

According to Phil Torrone’s exclusive interview with Andrew (bunnie) Huang for MAKE, the age of Chumby is pretty much over, at least as far as official manufacturing and support are concerned.

Chumby is the open source WiFi web app platform developed in 2006, before the release of the iPhone. It was one of the few OSHW products to be sold by big box retailers, such as Best Buy (where it was sold under their Insignia house brand.) When checked today the Chumby store is marked temporarily closed.

Andrew details the peaks and valleys in the development and marketing of a successful open source product, noting one of the “ongoing struggles in the OSHW ecosystem, which is how to address trademark and interoperability issues in an increasingly complex and diverse ecosystem.”

“In the face of ‘ship or die’, one should not be looking to ship the perfect product. It is more important to ship a product that’s good enough, than a great product that’s late. … Chumby suffered from precisely this. We premiered an alpha version of the device in August 2006, but we missed Christmas 2007. We didn’t launch our squishy, connected alarm clock until just after Christmas — February 2008.”

Read the entire interview at MAKEzine for thoughtful and enlightening insights into the inner workings of OSHW development.

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  1. Chumby was a disaster. My Chumby One never reliably connected to any WiFi network. The development and BSP package was so bad and bloated, it was useless. Good riddance.

  2. Chumby is great!

    I wake up every day with my Insignia Infocast (but upgraded with the new chumby firmware). You wake up and you can instantly see al the news, the weather forecast, check your email, you can listen to music… I also occasionally use it to watch some tv show just before going to bed.

    Yes you can have all that with an smartphone, but I also like the concept of an smart-alarm-clock :-)

  3. I too like the idea of the smart alarm clock. We are currently using two big IKEA alarm clocks that unfortunatelly are not made any more.

    But there is one big concern with the alarm clocks – they have to run without a cord and considerably long time.

  4. Chumby was never really open. They heavily relied on the proprietary Adobe flash,
    for which no really good free development tools are available.

    This kept potential developers of OS software away.
    Also the flash runtime has lots of limitations and lacks essential features.
    Nobody ever managed to get videos played without problems.

    In the end, Chumby was killed by Android.

    They should have made an Android compatible alarm clock years ago.
    I would’ve bought one.

  5. While Chumby isn’t making hardware anymore, the service for devices has been restarted now!

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