21 Inc is positioning the $400 computer as a platform that mines a small but constant stream of bitcoins to purchase digital goods through micro-payments.
The 21 Bitcoin Computer, out of the box, can run as a standalone Linux machine or be managed from a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer.
This first generation of the computer really targets developers and can be used for various applications that include the following:
- Set up a bitcoin-payable HTTP proxy server
- Build games of skill that allow people to win bitcoin
- Sell files for bitcoin with your own simple iTunes-like digital goods store
- Create APIs that can be bought for bitcoin
- Do a mashup that composes multiple bitcoin-payable APIs
- Permit people to SMS text messages for bitcoin, without revealing phone numbers
- Accelerate local computations by outsourcing them for bitcoin
- Code intelligent agents that search for the item with the lowest bitcoin price
Balaji S. Srinivasan, 21 Inc’s Co-founder and CEO, noted:
[The 21 Bitcoin Computer] is an integrated hardware/software device that is built to connect to other devices of its kind, to be updated in sync at the network level, and to integrate with an online developer community. It provides a stream of bitcoin to buy digital goods and services, the tools to quickly set up simple micropayment servers to sell these goods, and a set of demonstration apps along with the libraries to build your own.
We want to make clear that this is absolutely a first generation product, and it is meant for developers comfortable with the command line. But we think that by setting up a 21 Bitcoin Computer and joining our developer community, you’ll be able to explore what a future internet might look like if every node was constantly generating bitcoin and using it to engage in automated bitcoin-denominated machine commerce with its peers.
21 Inc has provided documentation on mining, micropayments, the command line interface, and the library within the 21 system.
The 21 mine command, at the command line or within a library, provides bitcoin on demand through something called “buffered pool mining”. 21 Inc’s goal is to minimize the extent to which users need to be concerned about the global hashrate when mining bitcoin for programming purposes. The system achieves this by supporting both continuous background mining of bitcoin and “foreground mining”, in which users can get an instant hit of bitcoin for programming use by materializing future mining proceeds on demand.
The 21 update command checks the 21 Inc servers and updates the device with new apps, sample code, and tutorials, permitting the device and user to improve over time.
The 21 Bitcoin Computer ships with two forms of peer-to-peer micropayments, on-chain and off-chain transactions. The next 21 update will enable support for an important third form: payment channels.
The device is also configured to permit users to engage in peer-to-peer networking and join the 21 Developer Community at slack.21.co.
Founded in 2013, 21 Inc has received US$121 million in venture capital in two rounds from investors that include Andreessen Horowitz, Data Collective, Khosla Ventures, Pantera Capital, Peter Thiel, Qualcomm Ventures, RRE Ventures, Yuan Capital, Karl Mehta, Winklevoss Capital.