They're finally here! Credit-card sized Linux PCs called Raspberry Pi are now available for pre-orders. Built by the UK based Raspberry Pi foundation, the low cost PCs would offer a complete desktop experience when connected with a keyboard and a display.
The Raspberry Pi concept evolved way back in 2006 when it was based on the Atmel ATmega644 microcontroller. Later on an ARM prototype version was built which was as tiny as a USB flash drive. The foundation is releasing one model as of now, titled the Model B. A second model, the Model A, is currently in production.
Raspberry Pi's model B is built on a Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM11 processor and features a RAM of 256Mb. There are two USB ports and an Ethernet port and it costs only $35. The lower end version, Model A, will be priced at $25. It will include only a single USB port and no Ethernet ports. There are no hard drives or solid state drives on the boards. Instead there is a SD card to enable booting.
As per the Raspberry foundation, the first launch is aimed at 'software and hardware enthusiasts, makers, teachers and others who want to built exciting things'. The official educational launch is scheduled for later this year.
RS Components and Premier Farnell are manufacturing the Raspberry Pi PCs for the foundation. Contrary to the previous claims that only 10,000 computers would be manufactured initially, the foundation claims that now the PCs would be built to match the orders. Since both the licensed manufacturers have international distribution networks, consumers would be able to buy the PCs locally too. This would save them a lot of money on shipping.
Ever since the announcement both the manufacturers' websites are experiencing a very heavy load. Even the foundation's website has been switched to static mode to accommodate the large amount of traffic that has been flowing in for information. The websites are expected to get functional again for the pre-orders in a few hours.
With the launch of Raspberry Pi, the foundation's vision of providing a base platform to fully exploit the potential of computing using the Linux environment at an ultra low cost would be pushed further. It is an ideal machine for IT developers, programmers and more importantly students.
It will be very interesting to see how Raspberry Pi opens up new gates for young computing enthusiasts in the coming few months. With such a low price point it's going to encourage a lot of students into computing. The official educational launch would along with the release of Model A would further help this cause.