Today the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that the Raspberry Pi 2, the new version of their credit card sized computer, is on sale for $35. The new devices are backward compatible with the previous generation but more powerful, with a faster ARM Cortex-A7 processor and twice more on-board memory.
In October 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation reported that 3.8 million devices had been sold. Despite its small size and low cost, the Raspberry Pi is a full computer able to run GNU/Linux software for ARM processors, including Debian and Ubuntu Core, as well as Python and other development tools. The video controller features HD and Full HD resolution.
Today, in parallel with the launch of the new Raspberry Pi, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced a version of Windows 10 that will support the Raspberry Pi 2. Developers are invited to join the Windows Developer Program for IoT ("Internet of Things") and start developing for the Raspberry Pi.
Microsoft isn't usually thought of as a strong supporter of the open source software movement, but things are changing fast. The Microsoft announcement makes explicit references to the "makers" - the community of hackers and open source tinkerers who build great hardware and software for fun. Reporting the recent Microsoft investment in Cyanogen, an operating system for smartphones and tablets based on the open source version of Android released by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Wired notes that Microsoft now realizes it must embrace open source software to stay competitive.
Another reason Microsoft is interested in supporting small and inexpensive devices like the Raspberry Pi is the expected boom of the Internet of Things ("IoT") - a world full of permanently online, interconnected devices. Physical objects will carry embedded computers that will manage their functions, automatically connect to the Internet via WiFi, and execute queries and commands. In the IoT world, you will finally be able to google the keys that you have lost somewhere.
According to Gartner, the number of connected "things" will rise to 25 billion in 2020. The tiny Raspberry Pi, which could be further improved and miniaturized, is a good platform to start building the connected devices of tomorrow.
The Register interviewed Raspberry Pi founder and CEO Eben Upton. He said:
"What we're talking about here is Windows 10 for IoT; there hasn't been a statement about capabilities. Microsoft will make a statement on what exact capabilities they plan to bring to the device fairly soon."
Upton is persuaded that, while the Raspberry Pi is currently aimed at makers and hobbyists, future cross-device compatibility based on Microsoft Visual Studio will permit the development of industrial-strength applications.
"The big thing for me is to have an environment where people can do the write once, run anywhere thing, write something that will run on a Surface, on a Raspberry Pi, and on a mobile phone."
Security is not a priority for hobbyists and enthusiasts, but "(Microsoft's) feeling is that they have the most secure operating system to build IoT applications," says Upton. "I don't think that's necessarily wrong."
Waiting for more information to be released soon, it's clear that Microsoft is thinking of a world of connected things that run Windows. If Windows will become the leading operating system for billions of IoT devices, just like it is the leading operating system for traditional computers, Microsoft will profit handsomely from licensing future IoT versions of Windows.
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