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Digital River - Talk to the Experts

$35 Raspberry Pi 2 Faster, Runs Windows 10

By Peter Suciu
Feb 2, 2015 12:12 PM PT

The Pi Foundation on Monday announced that it has released the latest version of its "entry-level PC." The Raspberry Pi 2 is now available for US$35, the same price as the previous Model B+.

This build-it-yourself computer features an 800MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU, which will offer six times the performance of the previous system. It also includes double the memory with 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM.

The Raspberry Pi 2 will be fully compatible with the Pi 1, and because it utilizes the ARMv7 processor, it can run a full range of ARM GNU/Linux software including Snappy Ubuntu Core and, notably, Microsoft's Windows 10.

The Pi 2 is available now from retail partners including element14 and RS Components.

ARM's Reach

Anyone who builds a PC around the Raspberry Pi 2 will have immediate access to open source Ubuntu. Additionally, the Pi Foundation announced that for the past six months they've been working closely with Microsoft to bring the forthcoming Windows 10 to Raspberry Pi 2.

The Pi 2 compatible version of Windows 10 will be available free of charge to those makers who purchased the system, the Foundation added. However, there could still be some limitations on what the Windows version might offer.

"This is an ARM based device which means that if it ran Windows it would only run the ARM version of the product which didn't run x86 apps," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"That version you historically couldn't buy, it was only sold to OEMs, but now for something like this they likely could get it for free, or near free, so the product could ship with it and Microsoft might like this because Raspberry Pi tends to be sold to hobbyists and developers -- both of which Microsoft would like to engage on multiple platforms," Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

Exactly what users can do with Windows 10 on this entry-level system isn't entirely clear at this point.

"The impact of Windows 10 is hard to determine," noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"At one level, it's very significant, especially if you factor in associated Microsoft's security and Visual Studio development tools, and possible integration with Azure services," King told TechNewsWorld. "But at another level, supporting Raspberry offers Microsoft a way to breathe life into Windows RT which more or less flat lined due to the failure of the company's Surface RT products and Microsoft OEM partners abandoning the platform."

Entry Level Market

The Raspberry Pi 2 could further answer the question "how low can you go?" But as a low end/entry level computing device it could have competition from other devices -- especially since as a "computer" it still lacks necessary components such as a display, mouse and keyboard.

"Market ready products that would fall into this class are the sub-$100 tablets and low cost over the air products that have been hitting the market; basically they are a very low cost core with a display and packaging, Raspberry Pi just strips the case and the display out because developers and hobbyists would often like more display flexibility," explained Enderle.

"The over the air boxes, a lot of the home automation products, and anything that needs computing power-industrial equipment -- can use this as part of the development cycle to prototype software and rough out the product," Enderle noted. "If this didn't exist these firms would incur additional cost building and testing something like this, Raspberry Pi is a far cheaper alternative for folks that would otherwise have to build this from parts."

It is still a device that continues to appeal to hobbyists and the burgeoning maker crowd, but there is a limit to where that can take a product such as the Pi 2.

"There's always been an element of 'if you build it, they will come' but the same could be said of the Altair 8800 and other 1070s home computer kits, and look where that ended," King added.

"The Raspberry folks see the new platform being aimed at the 'maker pro' community, which is to say advanced hobbyists and product developers who see the value of the additional memory and performance packed into the Raspberry 2," King stressed. "Possible commercial uses reside mainly in Internet of Things (IoT) applications but that's a pretty broad area."

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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