The Educational Market Could Fuel Early Growth for Raspberry Pi
As we've reported, the diminutive $25 Linux computer dubbed Raspberry Pi became available for purchase in its first incarnation only days ago, and the first devices sold out in mere seconds. Developers and tinkerers are putting numerous Linux distros on the devices, including Fedora, Debian and Arch Linux, and the next batch of Raspberry Pis is due imminently, and will probably sell out nearly instantly as well. ZDNet U.K. has gone so far as to say that "Raspberry Pi is the Linux punk ethic," and the device has already drawn interest from educational system and technology industry leaders.
As is always true with technologies that spur interest right out of the gate, version 1.0 of the Raspberry Pi will probably bear only slight resemblance to later versions, and new applications will be thought up for these gadgets. Here are a few imaginative scenarios for where Raspberry Pi might be headed.
A standard Raspberry Pi device comes with a 700MHz ARM11, 256 MB RAM, SD card slot, Ethernet port, 2 USB ports, and an an HDMI connector. The devices are expected to stay in the $25 to $35 range, which means they can reach people who could never afford computers before.
Trusted Reviews has come up with a collection of 10 places where Raspberry Pi might be headed. The editors imagine that Raspberry Pis might show up in "coding classrooms" where kids will experiment with it, and, since Raspberry Pis handle HD video, the credit card-sized devices might show up in very low-cost set-top boxes. The editors also forecast Raspberry Pi Internet Radio devices and in-car computers based on the gadgets.
In all likelihood, Raspberry Pis will need to seed initial, profitable markets before they can spread out to One Laptop Per Child-like scenarios, arriving in the hands of poor children around the world. The economics of delivering computers to kids who need food and stability before they need computers turned out to be difficult for the team behind One Laptop Per Child to master. It will be impossible for Raspberry Pis to find big, initial demand in the poorest parts of the world, but it's not out of the question for demand to eventually arrive there.
Of all markets for the Raspberry Pi, the educational market is probably the most promising. Here, bulk orders of Raspberry Pis can keep its makers profitable, and kids can experiment with surprisingly high-powered computers at little costs to their school systems. Toward that end, Computeractive is running the following quote from English education secretary Michael Gove:
"Initiatives like the Raspberry Pi scheme will give children the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming. This is a great example of the cutting edge of education technology happening right here in the UK."
Apple is not the only technology maker that built much of its early growth on the educational market, but it is a great example of such a success story. Let's hope that U.S. educators and educators in other parts of the world are listening.