Last week 21.Co, a heavily invested Bitcoin startup, announced the launch of their Bitcoin Computer. It was met with skepticism in the Bitcoin community and described as being an "expensive Raspberry Pi pre-loaded with Bitcoin bloatware".
The 21 Bitcoin Computer was designed to be a specialized, Bitcoin-centric computer with hardware and software support for the Bitcoin protocol. It has several features that are tailored to developers looking to learn about Bitcoin, build applications, and have connectivity to the "internet of things".
The Bitcoin Computer comes pre-built with an ASIC mining chip, pre-installed command-line-only software compatible with bitcoind, a 128 GB SD card, and functions as a standalone Linux machine or can be connected to Windows or Mac. The computer will come with a heavy $400 price tag.
21 stated that the purpose of having the computer conduct mining is so that small amounts of bitcoin will always be powering the computer. However, it is unclear why mining needs to be the method for delivering small amounts of bitcoin to the machine when purchasing bitcoin would be much more efficient and far cheaper. Having consumers perform at-home Bitcoin mining would burn more energy in value than the bitcoin they could produce: the electric bill would go up and be more expensive than the value of the bitcoin they would mine and sell for fiat.
While having pre-installed software might be convenient for some users, developers normally aren't fond of bloatware-esque software that they have no choice in installing. The software is also command-line only, which greatly reduces the user base that could use this product to technical developers.
While some are excited about testing it, the Bitcoin computer is already being called the "CueCat of Bitcoin". This is a reference to a failed Dot-com era product that allowed the scanning of barcodes to connect with respective URL's. The analogy also describes the massive investment into both the CueCat and 21 by large companies and VC's.
21 has received over $120 million in funding by companies like Qualcomm, Cisco, a16z, and Peter Thiel. While 21 was originally started as a mining company back in late 2013, it wasn't until this year that they started to reveal their long term plans. 21 stated that they intend to install a mining chip in every hardware device.
$400 for a minimal "Bitcoin Machine" that isn't clear on what efficiency it provides may prove the community wrong in offering something useful, but so far this product doesn't seem worth the money. The Bitcoin Computer plans to ship in late November.