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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14 Responses to “Questions remain over $25 Raspberry Pi”

  1. Vonskippy:

    Check your facts eh?

    From their FAQ

    “Will the device be available internationally, or just in the UK?
    We intend to ship worldwide from launch. We may establish a distribution network in due course.”

    Also no clue where you got the “give one to every UK school kid”.

    Raspberry Pi is competing with the other ARM/Embedded Linux boards, and will most likely be used as springboards for numerous controller type applications as well as a cheap programming platform.

  2. Dave Parrack:

    Braben said, “Our ambition is to give it for free to every school child in the country.”

  3. Jason Tokarz:

    “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.”

    This paragraph demonstrates two reasons why the Raspberry Pi is needed.
    Firstly, yes, smartphones and tablets are ‘more’ affordable but they are still cost hundreds of dollars. One of the points of the R-Pi is that if for some reason the device ends up being ‘bricked’, you’ve lost a $25 device not a device costing hundreds.
    Secondly, smartphones and tablets are running ‘secure operating systems’ which is great for consumer devices but a locked-down system is not conducive to a learning environment. The R-Pi allows kids to tinker with the OS without having to battle the manufacturer’s restrictions. If the OS ends up being hosed, no problem, just re-install.

  4. John:

    I think Raspberry PI is an amazing computer for the near future. It demonstrates that afordable and low power computing is on the road.
    Currently I am working on a BeagleBoard project, which is a Texas Instruments ARM computer like the Raspberry for about 120$. We are developing a commercial product with it, so we are pretty sure we will be using 25$ Raspberry PIs in replacement of the current board. This way we will place our devices in any place at a tiny low cost and power consumption.

  5. Optics:

    I reckon these will be a hit when they hit! I can’t wait to get my hands on one for $25 they cant be beat and if they only last six months it’s no big loss.

  6. CTD:

    “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 operating system runs on the device, not the other way around. Also, I don’t know why you would think Ubuntu is less secure than iOS or Android – citation definitely needed. And the level of support you can get from Canonical is about the same as you would get from Apple, MS, or Google.

    On top of that, most phones and tablets are at least an order of magnitude more expensive than the Raspberry Pi.

    Basically, I think your entire framework for generating opinions is broken.

  7. Ruby:

    The primary purpose of the Raspberry Pi is to encourage kids to learn programming. How much programming have you done on your smartphone lately? Yeah, exactly. :)

    This is an affordable device that kids can hook up to the TV in their bedrooms. Parents might hesitate to lets their kids loose on a family PC in case they bork it, but the Pi encourages experimentation. I think it’s a great idea and hope it takes off.

  8. Roland:

    Texas Instruments has consistently overpriced Beagle-apparently they are more interested in margins than profit. So they haven’t seen much volume. That leaves a marketing hole you could drive a truck through. Raspberry is that truck. My question: can Eben meet demand? He’s gonna be swamped.

  9. Anon:

    I think you missed some details and made some up.

    Raspberry Pi is not being given to every school child, its concept is a computing board cheap enough so the average class can be given them by schools, and being so cheap theres little to worry about breaking them or loosing them as its £15 to replace the model A, thats noth far of kids pocket money these days.

    The charitable aspect / donation is for developing countries where computer penitration is very low. These will be donated there to get places like africa some form of computing as they can hook up to an anologue tv via composite.

    The ultimate goal expressed for the R-Pi though is to be somewhat of a sucessor to the BBC Micro, getting kids into programming as we are seeing low numbers of candidates for computer science due to the horrid ICT lessons.

    Copering to phones and tablets?
    1) Programming on a these is horrid
    2) Your kid cant open your phone and play with the hardware
    3) If your kid opened your ipad, im sure they would not live to see xmas.

  10. John:

    I love the concept and can’t wait to get my hands on one. Also think that this device would do extremely well with a cloud-based OS. As others have pointed out, you don’t really lose much if something happens to the hardware (only $25) or even OS (just reinstall).

    Taking it a step further, you lose even less if you’re data is on the cloud – so ChromeOS or an integrated dropBox type solution might be another viable option.

    Still, it’s pretty amazing that they intend to run Ubuntu and I might wait to see reviews re: performance or getting another OS (like the lightweight Puppy Distro) on it to counter any performance issues.

  11. Stefan:

    I wonder if a collaboration between raspberry and freedombox was considered…

  12. Will Godfrey:

    I seem to remember the same ‘usefulness’ doubts about the Arduino board – and look what happened there.

    Creative/techie/geeky like to experiment with things, and this is exactly what these boards encourage.

    However, if you don’t have an inquiring mind stick to your smartphone

  13. Winkleink:

    My understanding of the goal for Raspberry Pi is to foster the same enthusiasm in computing as there was in the 80′s. (Hence model A and model B, like the BBC micro)

    Give kids a computer they can tinker with without being worried they’ll break it let their creativity go wild.

  14. Marcus Harman:

    Er? yes.
    The Raspberry Pi is definitely needed at this time. The rise of smart phones and pads is irrelevant. The Pi will hopefully be ubiquitous enough to help kids (and adults) to code and to learn about real applications of control systems.

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