The market for high-end chess computers is being served quite well. There is Phoenix Chess Systems from the Netherlands with the Revelation, and from Switzerland, there is Pewatronic with the Grandmaster. Impressive as these are both in terms of software and manufacturing quality, they are also expensive at several thousand EUR. At a more affordable price, there is the Millennium CG Exclusive at around 600 EUR.
In the lower price range, there is the Millennium Chess Genius which offers quite some playing strength at an affordable price of around a 100 EUR. Some criticism concerns the plastic board and pieces, but given the price, I think it is the best that is possible.
Another idea is to go really low-cost while still retaining a nice chess computer, which means dropping the board and the pieces altogether and instead going retro. It would be nice if a manufacturer were to launch such a chess computer “briquette” in series production.
The applicable licence is the GNU General Public License (GPL) Version 3 or later. The release downloads contain a copy of the full GPL text. While this licence raises certain obligations, “open source” would also make a good selling point.
The documentation already includes a user-oriented instruction manual (PDF), explaining how to actually use the CT800 with its various options.
The power-on self test aims for easier troubleshooting, both for the production test and for the end customer. If the hardware is damaged, the end customer has a clear proof of it, and the vendor support line can directly conclude that the device has to be sent in for repair or replacement. Another important feature is the battery monitoring which prevents damaging rechargeable batteries by deep discharge.
The hardware will need some cost engineering driven redesign since the prototype version depicted in the gallery will never find its way into mass production. The keys alone cost more than 400 EUR because they are piezo switches designed for waterproof devices.
But it is also possible to use some matrix keypad with micro switches, the software is designed to handle that (debouncing included). Actually, I connected the switches using a little board so that electrically, it is equivalent to a matrix keypad.
Other costly things are the front plate (55 EUR) and the effort to have the debug port (JTAG) available on the back of the housing.
However, with a setup geared towards economic production, the bill of material should be quite low. That would require cancelling the Olimex H405 board, which would allow for dropping some unnecessary components and combining it with my interface board and the buzzer.
The display could also be some cheaper variant without the frame mounting. Since the software is free of charge, this cuts down an important cost item, compared to other chess computers.
I think it should be possible to target around 50 EUR as end customer price. In fact, there are cheap chess computers in this price range, but not at this playing strength and not open source.
Should you happen to be such an interested manufacturer and feel you might need some support, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I am quite confident that we will be able to work out a solution.