Low-Cost Raspberry Pi Linux Devices to Arrive This Month
If you're a fan of Linux and you're also interested in how low the price point can go for a reasonably high-powered computer, you've got to be watching the Raspberry Pi story. As we noted here, the low-cost device--to be available in $25 and $35 versions--runs Linux via an ARM processor and appears to be surprisingly powerful. (That's the motherboard for it, to the left.)
Among other uses for it, Raspberry Pi may fill the gap that One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) couldn't quite fill, bringing computing to parts of the world where it has traditionally been unaffordable. Now, the Raspberry Pi team has confirmed that the initial run of $35 devices will happen February 20th. That's coming right up.
A new post on the site makes clear that the team is looking to keep prices as low as possible:
"The quartz crystal package we had chosen when we thought we were manufacturing in the UK is readily available over here in Europe, and was the cheapest we could find; but it turns out that in China, that crystal package has been overtaken in price and size by a smaller, cheaper one, so the one we’d designed for has been a bit hard to find. The factory has sourced crystals now, so we’re all go. The good news is that this finally means we have a date for the first batch: the boards will be finished on February 20. Eben and I may be going to China to make sure that the boards can be brought up properly for that date if necessary. We’ll be airfreighting them to the UK immediately, so you should be able to buy them before the end of the month."
According to Business Insider, the Raspberry Pi will feature a 700-MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, an SD card slot for storage, a USB port, audio out, and an HDMI port. If that sounds underpowered, Business Insider has a video up of the device smoothly running Quake 3 at about 20 frames per second, at 1920 by 1080 resolution. According to this post, Raspberry Pi will ship with Debian, Fedora or Arch Linux.
In other words, this ultra low-cost device isn't as underpowered as you might think. In fact, it could possibly meet the computing needs of millions of people who could never afford computers.
The Raspberry Pi team is also going out of its way to make sure that many operating systems can run on its device, as the latest post on the group's site confirms:
"There’s another big piece of news today. We’ve been leaning (gently and charmingly) on Broadcom, who make BCM2835, the SoC at the heart of the Raspberry Pi, to produce an abbreviated datasheet describing the ARM peripherals in the chip. If you’re a casual user, this won’t be of much interest to you, but if you’re wanting to port your own operating system or just want to understand our Linux kernel sources, this is the document for you. You can download a PDF here."
Later this month, we'll get to see this story play out. Hopefully, the Raspberry Pi team can win the interest of manufacturers and distributors who could help these diminutive devices take off.