The Chumby has been praised by some as open source hardware which is designed to be customizable by users, while others have criticized it as "goofy" and unnecessary.
Shortly after FOO Camp, Chumby announced a free Chumby offer, where applicants would receive the same alpha-level Chumby as those previously given away. Applicants submitted ideas for software applications or hardware modifications. One of the goals for the free offer was to have Chumbys in the hands of developers who were willing to begin building applications.
In July 2007, a First 50 was released to 50 random applicants, who received the next generation of Chumbys. This was followed, in September, with an Insiders Release. Interested parties could send e-mail to Chumby requesting release information, and were given the opportunity to join in the Insiders Release. Finally, in February 2008, the commercial release was made public on the Chumby Store. . In May 2008, the price was $179.95 for any one of three colors, latte, basic black, and pearl. International distribution of the Chumby is uncertain as it has not yet been tested for each major regulatory regime.
Hacking the Chumby hardware is encouraged by the manufacturer. Schematics and other hardware information may be downloaded after the user agrees to the Chumby HDK License. For example, users on the Chumby Forums have experimented with and documented some battery hacks, allowing the Chumby to be operated without AC power for short periods of time.
Chumby units run on 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. This is possible due to the fact that an embedded version of Adobe Flash Player is installed. 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.