Computers are cold, hard and uninviting. A Chumby is soft, playful and at the forefront of Web-enabled home and business-travel devices. So what exactly is a Chumby? Categorizing it has probably been one of the biggest challenges founder Steve Tomlin, 46, and his team has faced.
"We call it an interactive media player," says Tomlin. "It isn't a smaller, bigger or fancier computer. It's not something you already have."
The Chumby, which looks like a standalone car headrest with a built-in high-resolution touch-screen, is an always-on Internet-enabled device. It offers all sort of information. The Chumby is a clock. It's also an entertainment news feed, a calendar, a digital photo frame, a video player, a stock-quote display and nearly a thousand other things enabled from the widget applications that run on it.
The $179 Chumby takes your most desired information and puts it in front of you for access at a glance, whether that's the morning surf report or pictures of your family. The Chumby, which debuted in February, has squishy sides, internal speakers and runs on an open-source Linux platform. It's not surprising that a company that avoided naming their new Internet-enabled device without a prefix "e" or "i" sees things a bit differently than other tech companies. The Chumby, unlike most other consumer electronics, gets better with age.The early adopters of Chumby, for example, didn't know they were buying an Internet radio. But one morning they looked at their device and saw a tab for music that had been pushed to their device with a software update through the Internet.