Chumby Makes a Move Towards Connected TV - Great for Developers

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Chumby coming to your Connected TV? And Google TV in the future? With an app store chock full of over 1500 applications, scores of third party developers, it looks like this ambient consumer electronics product , which started as an embedded computer which provides Internet and LAN access via a Wi-Fi connection - or a radio clock on steroids, could come to TV and other smart, connected devices in your house. And what's interesting, is that Chumby has source code available for developers to tap into their architecture.

According to Forbes.com, Chumby wants to provide an infotainment stream for television screens that can resize programming and display alongside live TV - the company want viewers to be able to passively take in data from any of its 1,500+  app collection and see friends’ Twitter updates, view Facebook photos simply by toggling functions via a remote.

Chumby is quietly building a software and services empire.

...The quirky, San Diego-based software firm kicked off 2010 with the introduction of the Sony Dash, a Web-enabled alarm clock that runs Chumby's Internet applications and other streaming media. In June, Chumby paired with Best Buy on a digital picture frame called Infocast. Within the next five months, Chumby expects to expand its reach by launching tablet computers, televisions and home energy control monitors powered by its unique, open-source software.

...Chumby TVs are also on the way, thanks to the trend of Internet-connected televisions. Chumby apps will operate the same way on TVs as they do on smaller screens, meaning users will be able to broadcast photos and Twitter and Facebook updates on these larger displays. (The apps, which are based on Adobe's Flash technology, automatically resize to fit different dimensions.)

"This is the way the TV market is heading," says Chumby Chief Executive Steve Tomlin. "It's less about pixel counts and warranties and more about streaming services that add value over the air." Eventually, says Tomlin, "...these various "connected screens" will form a broad media network, enabling Chumby to add ads to its free apps."

The company claims it's presently serving 1 billion apps a month across its devices.

"That's a lot of airtime we're effectively broadcasting."

As written in the article, Chumby also wants to enter the home energy monitoring market, integrating into connected TV and Blu-ray players, and even taking a stab in the highly competitive tablet market. But Chumby’s strategy is a bit different than most, if not all. Rather than go for an opt-in, opt-out widget scenario, they wants to tap into the space where devices aren’t actively being used for their main purpose - think screensaver mode. In the case with Android powered tablets, Chumby would be installed as an application and provide an infotainment stream — showing photo slide shows, headlines, etc. — when the device is charging or docked.

Chumby units run a modified Linux kernel. The software originally installed on the device is designed to play a set of user-customizable widgets, small Adobe Flash animations that deliver real-time information. The animations have the ability to control and interact with the low-level hardware, thereby enabling functionality such as smart alarm clocks that bring the hardware out of sleep, a web based picture viewer, a web based camera, online RSS feeds, and physical user interface features such as gesture recognition through squeezing the soft housing. The software for the Chumby automatically updates when something new becomes available. The updates come from the free access to the Chumby network, and a modified BitTorrent client is used to upgrade the open-source portions of its firmware.


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