Friday, September 2, 2011

Transitioning from hardware to software

In the same way that there are dog and cat people, there are hardware and software people. I'm clearly a dog person, and I'm clearly a software person.

Yet it's possible to transition from one category to the other, at least on the hardware/software end. (Not sure if a cat person can suddenly love dogs, or vice versa.)

Take Chumby. It originally gained fame because of its hardware device - the device used its own software, but the main focus point was that they sold an integrated hardware/software device.

But then the Chumby software began showing up in other places. My family owns a Sony Dash, for example. But I didn't realize just how far the Chumby software had migrated:

[N]ow the company is calling itself a content platform that serves flash-based apps across “hundreds of thousands” of Chumby-powered devices, including the Best Buy Connected Insignia TV.

“We’ve found ourselves in an interesting situation of going from a three-inch screen to a 50 inch screen,” says CEO Derrick Oien. Chumby alarm clocks have 3.5″ LCD touchscreens, 350 MHz ARM processors, 64 MB of memory and 64 MB of flash ROM. Now the company’s software enables large-screen TV’s to access apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, Accuweather and Reuters News.

If Chumby can pull this off, it will be a profitable direction for the company. Hardware can have notoriously poor margins, but if you can just supply the software piece, then you can make out like a bandit.

And, despite Steve Jobs' lobbying, it's interesting to note that Chumby is pursuing Flash applications. And the landscape hasn't appreciably changed since I wrote about Flash in June 2010.
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