Raspberry Pi reveals why it’s shifting away from hardware
Around the world, the devices have been used to make smartphones, power R2D2 and Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton himself has been awarded a CBE for his work promoting coding for children.
Five years on, WIRED speaks with Upton about record-breaking sales (more than 12 million units of the five product lines have been sold), the launch of its latest iteration and where the Foundation goes next.To mark the half-decade of the Pi's release, Upton and the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released the Raspberry Pi Zero W (the W stands for wireless). The tiny board is only the second Pi with wireless functionality built onto its board. However, it's likely to be the last big hardware update within the Pi range for the coming future."Raspberry Pi One lasted for three years," Upton says. "Then we had Raspberry Pi Two that lasted for a year, I think Raspberry Pi Three is more like a three-year product. We may tweak some peripheral bits of it at some point but probably not even that."
Instead, for Upton, the big focus for the coming years is developing the software available for all Pi devices. The intent is already clear: at the tail end of 2016 Raspberry Pi launched an experimental version of its Pixel operating system for PC and Macs, after it was first unveiled in September.
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The Pixel operating system can be run without the need for a Raspberry Pi and Upton says it is the "best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for". Speaking to WIRED before the launch of the Pi Zero W, the founder says his staff will be "polishing and putting a shine" on the software available.This could, if previous suggestions are anything to go on, see an Android "environment" being introduced. This is in addition to Google planning to bring artificial intelligence to the Pi family. Six of the best simple Raspberry Pi projects
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Since 2015, the Pi has been the best-selling British computer and Upton claims that, in terms of general purpose computing platforms, it is second only to the PC and Mac. Competition has emerged, though.Asus recently launched a £55 Raspberry Pi rival dubbed the Tinker Board. The device is the same 3.4-inch x 2.1-inch size as the Pi 3 but also supports 4K video through its HDMI 2.0 port. In the intervening years since the Pi's launch, the BBC has revived the micro:bit.READ NEXTAsus launches £55 Raspberry Pi rival with 4K support
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Officials at the broadcasting corporation have delivered much-delayed one million pocket-sized computers, for free, to school children around the UK. It has also launched the micro:bit foundation to deliver the devices to other areas of the world."Engineering doesn't care who your Dad is. Maybe your Dad can get you a nice job and then you can muddle through, but engineering doesn't care: bridges stand-up or they fall down"
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As well as the focus on software, there is also going to be an attempt to "double down" on the Foundation's charitable work – which is its main aim. The trading arm of the Raspberry Pi Foundation sells the devices.ADVERTISEMENT
"One of the nice things about having scale now is that we can start to do some big data work," Upton continues. To this end, the CBE says he wants to bring more coding classes to schools in the UK and then in Europe, the US, and developing nations.In 2015, the Raspberry Pi foundation merged with Code Club, which runs after school lessons that teach children how to code. Exposing as many children to coding is the best way to increase diversity across engineering, Upton says."There's the tendency to think this stuff is just a middle-class thing, it's probably what you do between kiddie yoga and horse-riding but it actually really isn't."Engineering is a wonderful tool for social mobility," Upton says. "Engineering doesn't care who your Dad is. Maybe your Dad can get you a nice job in some field and then you can muddle through. But engineering doesn't care: bridges stand-up or they fall down."