21 Bitcoin Computer Enables Machine-to-Machine Payments

When Andreessen Horowitz established Bitcoin startup 21 Inc., the goal was to turning Bitcoin into an Internet protocol or common language between connected devices, enabling machine-to-machine payments. The company just unveiled its first product and first step on the path to that end. The 21 Bitcoin Computer, which will go on sale Monday for $400 and ship in November, is aimed at developers, not consumers, and offers the Bitcoin protocol as a feature of its Linux-based operating system.

The computer’s operating system offers a “full copy of Bitcoin’s code and related software that will allow developers to make Bitcoin a core feature of the products they build,” notes The Wall Street Journal. That solves a core problem, says Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz who notes that, up until now, machine-to-machine payments have been “just amazingly hard to do.”

The computer also uses a 21 chip introduced earlier in 2015 that is linked to 21’s mining pool and provides a steady stream of Bitcoin for the user. The result, says 21 chief executive Balaji Srinivasan, is that, in principle at least, every page view on a site can be monetized.

“The utility of Bitcoin up until this point has been the speculation value,” he says. “We have a new, pretty strong use case for Bitcoin.”

Although Bitcoin was originally conceived of as an alternative currency, in recent months, experts have seen it as a means to modernize the financial system. 21 envisions a network of machines that could “essentially talk to each other across the Bitcoin network, creating a platform for machine-to-machine payments.”

IBM researchers also opined that Bitcoin could be a key feature of the Internet of Things, enabling connected devices to exchange value automatically. “These things can’t happen without some enabling technology,” says Horowitz, noting its use for services such as Netflix and media companies.