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Chumby on Pile of Electronics

Chumby – mine seen above – are going 1.0 today, as it were. A Chumby is a little computer with a touch screen, built in wifi, and locked to playing a Flash slide show of widgets. There’s a community of widgets that backs it, and things like USB ports on the back and SSH access for the super-dorks of you out there.

I’ve had a Chumby for sometime. It was actually great fun to play around with and setup, but I must confess that I haven’t even turned it on for several months. I sort of liked it for a Facebook and Twitter screen, but I couldn’t ever find the killer application for it. Tony MacDonell and I discussed some ideas in RIA Weekly 004.

Essentially, the Chumby is another, small screen for your house that sits crosses the line between computer and house accessory. As such, you could think that cycling through photos, showing you a family calendar, reminding you of things, or broadcasting other house-hold related “things to notice” about would be handy. Of course, I’m a laptop-jockey saying all this, so my focus is sort of more work oriented than fun. Maybe it’d be good as just a quick game console or a fun thing to see bubbly cartoons play on.

Now, I never quite figured out how to use it as an alarm clock, and I gotta tell ya, that could be a nice $179.95 alarm clock if it worked well. I’ll have to boot up my little Chumby and pick around at that. Indeed, using it as an iPod enabled alarm clock for trips was my first desire, but the need to plug it in rather than run it off batteries kind of screwed up the travel idea before I even checked if there was an alarm clock.

My verdict is this: if you’re the kind of person who’ll spend $180 on an adult toy, go for it. You might end up like me with that little lump, sitting dark on your desk. Or, you might find some fun sue for it. And, it goes without saying that it’s a good gift for those jerks who both seem to have everything already and won’t give you any suggestions for gifts. My wife actually got pretty upset at me for buying it because it would have been an easy, if a bit expensive gift.

On the pricing note, I’m legend for telling people that their pricing is too high, so: the pricing is too high. $180 for the little lump is priced for nerds, not normals. If the thing were portable and could be used as a cute boombox, maybe. But you have to plug it in, so it’s bound to the socket. On the other hand, those digital photo frames can get pricey, but they can also be (dinky but) really cheap.

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Categories: The New Thing.