21 is a mysterious Bitcoin hardware and mining startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz that unwrapped its first product earlier this year. A few weeks ago, they unveiled and began pre-selling a computer that has native hardware and software support for the Bitcoin protocol.
Co-founder Balaji Srinivasan, who previously started bioinformatics and gene testing company Counsyl, said the vision is akin to how PCs and operating systems like Windows 95 began to include TCP/IP support natively in the 1990s, opening the door for widespread Internet adoption. If machines and phones start having native Bitcoin support, it enables them to support infinitely small transactions off the Bitcoin protocol in exchange for whatever goods and services a person or machine wants. One popular example idea is requiring infinitesimally small payments for e-mail, which would curb spam.
“First, you had the worldwide Internet. Then the social Internet,” Srinivasan said. “Then this is the machine payable Internet.”
It also cuts the barrier to participating or developing with the Bitcoin protocol dramatically. Srinivasan said that there are maybe 1,000 developers worldwide who really know how to work with the protocol.
“There’s a tiny number of Bitcoin wizards, and