Questions remain over $25 Raspberry Pi

November 3, 2011

The Raspberry Pi, a $25 working computer the size of a credit card, is almost ready for public consumption. But questions remain.

The device was first revealed in May, with the brainchild behind it, former games developer David Braben, revealing the specs as a 700MHz ARM11 processor, 128Mb of RAM, OpenGL ES 2.0, USB 2.0, HDMI and Composite outputs, an SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot, and open source software including Ubuntu, Iceweasel, KOffice, and Python. In August we saw a demo of the Raspberry Pi working, with it impressively managing to run Quake III.

The biggest question hanging over the Raspberry Pi is whether it’s actually needed at this stage in time. Five years ago it would have been a Godsend but we now have smartphones and tablets which are affordable, can do a lot more than this device will ever be able to, and run on widely supported and secure operating systems.

The other questions relate to how this device is actually going to get in the hands of those who want it. The first deliveries are being promised in December, which is pretty good going coming just seven months after the concept was revealed. But we’re talking a small amount of devices dispatched in this time frame, with 10,000 part kits (which will then be turned into the finished product) coming in this first shipment.

The Raspberry Pi is also limited just to the U.K. at this stage, with the initial intent to give one to every schoolchild in the country. Will it make it to other countries? And if so when? The team also haven’t yet decided whether to limit sales to people willing to donate the cost of another device at the same time. I would think that’s a necessity if this program is actually get anywhere. Enough people seem interested at this early stage that requiring a $25 donation to be an early adopter shouldn’t be a problem.

I still support this effort, and I’m amazed at what Braben and his team have managed to put together for $25. But the team have such lofty aims that they need to get their strategy in place as soon as possible if they stand any chance of achieving them.

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