A codicil here- with sincere respect to the vision concept of a server based "Chumby network"
The demises of I-opener,CueCat,Kerbango and other "server revenue stream" plans should be studied carefully!
Secondary and tertiary cash flows from "server paid content" ARE of viable worth in my admittedly shallow perception BUT- ALL push media sadly are endangered species if Broadcast Flag DRM reincarnates- public backlash spreads- and our paradigm goes places we can't even speculate beyond wild guesses. Such as a savior from DRM hell. Like -"AdHocracies" exemplified in for example - "Podcasts" could be a content source for Chumby.
We've certainly studied these devices and the reasons why they failed.
I really don't think *any* of these devices failed because of DRM - they failed for reasons of basic economics. In all of the devices DRM didn't actually present much of a barrier - they were typically hacked within days. It's possible DRM might have eventually become an issue, but they didn't exist long enough to find out.
Take the i-opener. The biggest problem there was that the device cost substantially more than the company charged for it - there is speculation that it cost the company $400, while they charged $99. We're planning on passing through the chumby more or less at our cost. So, if you're one of those folks that's planning on hacking it, well, we haven't lost money on you at least. The other big problem with i-opener was that is attempting to replace a device that was already cheaper and more full featured - by the time you added the cost of the device and the *required* subscription, you were paying more that you would for a more powerful general purpose computer. Chumby is designed to find a place in the home where a computer is simply not appropriate or useful, and provide a function for which a computer is overkill.
Many of these subsidized computer device companies ended up selling devices to wither hackers or people too poor to pay for "real" computers - neither group was ideal for creating a recurring revenue stream.
CueCat suffered from a different problem - it required too much third-party infrastructure over which they had no control. They needed people to print the barcodes everywhere, and they needed all the e-commerce sites to support them. Without a critical mass of support, the product was pointless. They tried to buy that critical mass by carpet-bombing devices, and hoping to generate consumer pull-through - they thought that folks would naturally demand CueCat content once they had the device. Unfortunately for them, people simply don't shop that way, and didn't see the utility. The content providers also saw no reason to add yet another cost (a royalty to CueCat) to their products.
As hackers, we tend to be more focused on the Slashdot viewpoint of such devices or services - on how "hackable" they are. But hackability is in no way an indicator of the commercial success of a product.
Tivo, for instance, is the perfect counterexample - it's *barely* hackable, but it's a subscription-subsidized device who's business model is not totally unlike the devices mentioned above. The Tivo succeeded where the others didn't because it was *useful*. Tivo's only weakness is that there are better financed cable, satellite and DSL companies that provide the content that can eliminate them by peddling DVRs directly to the customer and spread the subsidy across other services.
So, why are we catering, at least at this early stage - to hackers? Well partly because *we're* hackers, and we're excited about the device and want to share that with other folks like us. But we're also doing it because the hackers are going to play with the device *anyway*, and we'd rather embrace that rather than get all huffy about it as these other companies did. But here's the thing - hackers will never be more than a percent or so of the user base, if chumby succeeds.
So will chumby succeed? Dunno - we'll find out.