BERG, a former design consultancy and developer of odd and sometimes whimsical products demonstrating the potential of internet-connected physical objects, is going into "hibernation." Co-founder Matt Webb says that BERG is "wrapping up for this incarnation. Our partnerships and our services, they're done." The only product Webb says he'll keep alive is BERG's Little Printer, the adorable device the studio hoped would turn your morning feed of news and social network messages into a tiny custom newspaper. Until March of 2015, a small group will continue to support the Little Printer, after which they'll try to sell it or release the code as an open source project. "We'd love to see LP survive," writes Webb.
The Little Printer was one of the most visible manifestations of our desire to create permanent, tangible reminders of our digital existence — it was announced in 2011 around the same time as Printstagram, which printed your favorite Instagram pictures in a miniature photo album. The "internet of things" had also gained traction over the preceding few years, and BERG moved away from its original design consulting work to start making its own connected products, something Webb now says it's "not reached a sustainable business in." Before this shift, Webb also produced a comic with author Warren Ellis (who named the studio), including a special device that let readers scour the pages for clues added in invisible ink. Ellis published a short retrospective on the studio today. "It feels like a significant moment," he wrote, "as significant, I think, as their turn into internet-of-things products and services, which had its own sadness for a lot of people."
There's no word on what the team behind BERG will be doing next, and keeping the Little Printer alive as a commercial product seems dubious. Smart homes, connected devices, and the internet of things seem perpetually on the verge of becoming practical and ubiquitous, without ever quite making the final leap. And no matter how good the implementation — and it wasn't always great, at least not at first — the Little Printer remained more expensive than many full-sized printers and provided a service that was interesting but inessential. As a hobbyist project, though, it's still pretty cute.