It’s a fantastic little device, a low-spec computer available for less than $30 — but how long will the Raspberry Pi dominate the small PC hobbyist market? Are there competitors ready to take his place?
So what are these competing devices, and do they stand a chance of pushing the Raspberry Pi out of its beloved position as king of minicomputers?
What makes a Raspberry Pi successor?
The specs of the Raspberry Pi are modest but effective. The small PC measures 85.60mm × 53.98mm (3.370″ × 2.125″) with a depth of only 15mm. An unmodified Raspberry Pi weighs 45 grams (1.6 ounces) before being placed in its case.
While the more popular Model B was originally released with 256MB of RAM, it now ships with 512MB; other changes to the system specification should be expected as costs are reduced. Perhaps the real strength of the Raspberry Pi lies in its connectivity options, allowing you to output HDMI, RCA, audio, and connect various USB devices, an SD card, and an Ethernet cable. There are also GPIO pins for custom extensions and cable connections.
It’s understandably modest, and any computer with a similar form factor will need to take a look at those specs. Likewise, a competing device will need to have additional connectivity and storage, as well as a good selection of operating systems, and perhaps even an affordable BIOS or embedded OS for low-level tasks. Competitors who decide to take down the Raspberry Pi should also look to price their hardware in the same $50 zone.
One last word, before we look at the alternatives, you’ll notice that the Raspberry Pi’s overlooked competitor is missing. However, we omitted mention of the Arduino, mainly because it’s not really a competitor. Its feature set is quite different and indeed Pi and Arduino can be linked to work together on some projects.
Israeli company CompuLab is releasing an ARM Utility-based miniature computer later in 2013, equipped with a Freescale i.MX6 system-on-a-chip with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and support for up to 4 GB of RAM. In addition, there are four USB 2.0 ports and one USB OTG port, two Ethernet ports, built-in 802.11 WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as I/O and HDMI and DVI-D connectivity options.
1080p H.264, VC1, RV10 and DivX decoding is available, positioning this device as a multimedia solution is possible, and GPUs support OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0, OpenVG 1.1 and OpenCL EP.
Available operating systems include Android and Linux, with CompuLab saying the device will be «offered with full-featured desktop-class Ubuntu Linux or Android operating systems for a rich media and PC experience.»
Looking like one of the many PC-on-a-stick solutions that currently exist, the Utility looks like a computer that could become popular. However, the $99 price (and that’s for the base model) takes it out of the Raspberry Pi’s target market.
The chances of Cream Pi are 6/10
Closer to the Raspberry Pi style is the BeagleBoard. Of the four models available, the most basic version is the BeagleBone Black, priced at $45.