The other chips are just that chips and do not do what the WODE can do at present and will be able to do in the very near future. The thing you need to keep in mind is that the WODE is a mini-PC. It has its own CPU and DDR memory built in running a Linux kernal. So unlike the 'chips' that you refer to WODE is programable and quite feature rich for other things beside just being able to play Wii or Game Cube games. Currently the networking GUI is having the final bugs sorted and then both WiFi and LAN type networking will be a breeze with the WODE. That will basically take away any need for a HDD to be connected.
If you are still worried about the base just mod your Wii and WODE. I took the Wii DVD drive out of one of my systems and put the whole WODE inside my Wii.
You are limited by what you can think off, nothing more and nothing less.