The Arduino Foundation: What’s Up?

The Arduino Wars officially ended last October, and the new Arduino-manufacturing company was registered in January 2017.  At the time, we were promised an Arduino Foundation that would care for the open-source IDE and code infrastructure in an open and community-serving manner, but we don’t have one yet. Is it conspiracy? Or foul play? Our advice: don’t fret. These things take time.

But on the other hand, the Arduino community wants to know what’s going on, and there’s apparently some real confusion out there about the state of play in Arduino-land, so we interviewed the principals, Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto, and asked them for a progress report.

The short version is that there are still two “Arduinos”: Arduino AG, a for-profit corporation, and the soon-to-be Arduino Foundation, a non-profit in charge of guiding and funding software and IDE development. The former was incorporated in January 2017, and the latter is still in progress but looks likely to incorporate before the summer is over.

Banzi, who is a shareholder of Arduino AG, is going to be the president of the Foundation, and Musto, AG’s CEO, is going to be on the executive board and both principals told us similar visions of incredible transparency and community-driven development. Banzi is, in fact, looking to get a draft version of the Foundation’s charter early, for comment by the community, before it gets chiseled in stone.

It’s far too early to tell just how independent the Foundation is going to be, or should be, of the company that sells the boards under the same name. Setting up the Foundation correctly is extremely important for the future of Arduino, and Banzi said to us in an interview that he wouldn’t take on the job of president unless it is done right. What the Arduino community doesn’t need right now is a Foundation fork.  Instead, they need our help, encouragement, and participation once the Foundation is established. Things look like they’re on track.

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Arduino Vs. Arduino: Arduino Won

For the last two years, Arduino LLC (the arduino.cc, Massimo one) and Arduino SRL (the arduino.org, Musto one) have been locked in battle over the ownership of the Arduino trademark. That fight is finally over. Announced at the New York Maker Faire today, “Arduino” will now go to Arduino Holding, the single point of distribution for new products, and a non-profit Arduino Foundation, responsible for the community and Arduino IDE.

Since early 2015, Arduino — not the Arduino community, but the organization known as Arduino — has been split in half. Arduino LLC sued Arduino SRL for trademark infringement. The case began when Arduino SRL, formerly Smart Projects SRL and manufacturers of the Arduino boards with a tiny map of Italy on the silk screen, began selling under the Arduino name. Arduino LLC, on the other hand, wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other manufacturers.

While Arduino and Arduino have been tied up in court for the last few years, from the outside this has look like nothing else but petty bickering. Arduino SRL forked the Arduino IDE and bumped up the version number. Later, an update from SRL was pushed out to Amazon buyers telling them Arduino.org was the real Arduino. Resellers were in a tizzy, and for a time Maker Faires had two gigantic Arduino booths. No one knew what was going on.

All of this is now behind us. The open source hardware community’s greatest source of drama is now over.

I spoke with Massimo after the announcement, and although the groundwork is laid out, the specifics aren’t ready to be disclosed yet. There’s still a lot to work out, like what to do with the Arduino.org Github repo, which TLD will be used (we’re rooting for .org), support for the multitude of slightly different products released from both camps over the years, and finer points that aren’t publicly visible. In a few months, probably before the end of the year, we’ll get all the answers to this. Now, though, the Arduino wars are over. Arduino is dead, long live Arduino.

Pimoroni Wash Their Hands Of Arduino

One of the big stories of last year was the fracture of the official Arduino supply into two competing organisations at daggers drawn, each headed by a different faction with its origins in the team that gave us the popular single board computers. Since then we’ve had Arduinos from Arduino LLC (the [Massimo] Arduino.cc, arguably the ‘original’, and Arduino trademark holder in the United States) and Arduino SRL (the [Musto] Arduino.org, and owner of the Arduino trademark everywhere except the US) , two websites, two forks of the IDE, and “real” Arduino boards available under a couple of names depending on where in the world you live due to a flurry of legal manoeuvres. Yes. it’s confusing.

Today came news of a supplier throwing its hands up in despair  at the demands imposed on them as part of this debacle. Pimoroni, famous as supplier of Raspberry Pi goodies, has put up a blog post explaining why they will henceforth no longer be selling Arduinos. They took the side of Arduino LLC, and the blog post details their extensive trials and delays in making contact with the company before eventually being told they would have to agree to purchase substantial stocks both Arduino and Genuino branded versions of identical products and agree to sell them through separate supply channels for both Europe and the rest of the world before they could proceed. This is not a practical proposition for a small company, and the Pimoroni people deliver a very pithy explanation of exactly why towards the bottom of their post.

We’ve covered the Arduino versus Arduino debacle extensively in the past, this is simply the latest in a long line of stories. Pimoroni have hit the nail on the head when they make the point that the customers and suppliers really don’t care about spats between the various inheritors of the Arduino legacy, they just want an Arduino. And with so many other Arduino-compatible boards available they don’t have to look very hard to find one if the right shade of blue solder-resist or the shape of the map of Italy on the back isn’t a special concern. Can we be the only ones wishing something like this might knock a bit of sense into the various parties?

Wiring was Arduino before Arduino

Hernando Barragán is the grandfather of Arduino of whom you’ve never heard. And after years now of being basically silent on the issue of attribution, he’s decided to get some of his grudges off his chest and clear the air around Wiring and Arduino. It’s a long read, and at times a little bitter, but if you’ve been following the development of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle, it’s an important piece in the puzzle.

Wiring, in case you don’t know, is where digitalWrite() and company come from. Maybe even more importantly, Wiring basically incubated the idea of building a microcontroller-based hardware controller platform that was simple enough to program that it could be used by artists. Indeed, it was intended to be the physical counterpart to Processing, a visual programming language for art. We’ve always wondered about the relationship between Wiring and Arduino, and it’s good to hear the Wiring side of the story. (We actually interviewed Barragán earlier this year, and he asked that we hold off until he published his side of things on the web.)

The short version is that Arduino was basically a fork of the Wiring software, re-branded and running on a physical platform that borrowed a lot from the Wiring boards. Whether or not this is legal or even moral is not an issue — Wiring was developed fully open-source, both software and hardware, so it was Massimo Banzi’s to copy as much as anyone else’s. But given that Arduino started off as essentially a re-branded Wiring (with code ported to a trivially different microcontroller), you’d be forgiven for thinking that somewhat more acknowledgement than “derives from Wiring” was appropriate.

screenshots_comparo
See what we mean?

The story of Arduino, from Barragán’s perspective, is actually a classic tragedy: student comes up with a really big idea, and one of his professors takes credit for it and runs with it.

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[Federico Musto] of Arduino SRL Discusses Arduino Legal Situation

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and interview Arduino SRL’s CEO, [Federico Musto], over a nice dinner. His company is one half of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle which has pitted Arduino.cc against Arduino.org in a battle over the trademark on “Arduino”.

Given the tremendous amount of press coverage of [Massimo Banzi] and the Arduino LLC side of the story (Arduino.cc), we were very interested in hearing how the whole situation looks where [Frederico Musto] sit (Arduino.org). In the end, we came away with what we feel is a more balanced and complete picture of the situation, as well as interesting news about future products from the Arduino SRL camp. [Musto’s] take on the legal proceedings, both past and present, is nothing short of fascinating.

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Hackaday’s Interview with Arduino CEO [Massimo Banzi]

I caught up with [Massimo Banzi] at the Shenzhen Maker Faire to talk about manufacturing in China, the current and future of Arduino, and how recent events may shape the Open Hardware landscape.

The big news from Arduino at SZMF is a new partnership with Seeed Studio to manufacture theGenuino. This is an official Arduino board manufactured in China for the Chinese market. Knowing that the board is official and connected to the founders is key point to get makers to adopt this hardware. [Massimo] makes a good point about the ideal of “Proudly Made in China” which I could see as a selling point for the burgeoning maker market there. This may be a growing principle in China, but in an ocean of clone boards it sounds like a tough path forward. On the other hand, their booth was mobbed with people putting in new orders.

[Massimo] belives the current Arduino strife has actually served to move the project forward. He cites the schism between arduino.cc and arduino.org for catalyzing manufacturing partnerships with both Adafruit Industries and Seeed Studios. This has resulted in official Arduino hardware that is not made only in Italy, but made in the region the hardware will be used; NYC for US orders, Shenzhen for China orders.

Our discussion wraps up with a plea from [Massimo] for the Hackaday community to be a little less fickle about projects using Arduino. That one makes me chuckle a bit!

Arduino vs Arduino: These Are Not The Droids…

We’ve been trying to not pick favorites in the Arduino controversy, or at least remain open-minded to both sides of the story. Some businesses, on the other hand, are clearly aligning themselves.  (Full text of e-mail below.)

Reader [Francisco Zabala], from cool robot-supplies store Acrobotic, got this e-mail from an Amazon distributor where he purchased some Arduinos “ages ago” and was angered enough at the brazen tone to drop us a line.


Thank you for our Arduino purchase from our Amazon.com store. We truly appreciate your business.

We are writing to let you know about an important change in Arduino products. The new website for Arduino is now officially Arduino.org. The old website (arduino.cc) should no longer be used.

All new Arduino hardware will be transitioned from the old Arduino.cc badging to the new Arduino.org badging. Please be aware that during this transition, you may receive Arduino hardware with either Arduino.cc or Arduino.org. Both are authentic Arduino-brand hardware.

If you use Arduino.org branded hardware on the old site, you may be presented with an error. Please use the new Arduino.org site.


We know for sure that Arduino SRL sent out a letter to distributors claiming that they were the real Arduino because they’ve been manufacturing the boards. Seeing a distributor recommend against the software at arduino.cc in such stark terms makes us wonder if there have been similar letters sent out concerning the IDE fork. Anyone have anything? Send us a tip if you do.

We find it a little ironic that when arduino.cc added the now-retracted popup that specifically targeted boards made by Smart Projects / Arduino SRL,  that they opened themselves up to this sort of counter-attack: if you see an error popup, just switch over to the “new official” IDE. Oops. Good that it’s gone now.

Finally, we’ve got to say that “the old website should no longer be used” is pretty rich: we’re hackers, we use whatever software / IDE we like, thank you very much! No matter how the legal battles end up, and no matter who tells you to use what codebase, the beauty of open source is that it’s up to you, and not them. Hack on, y’all!

Thanks, [Francisco] for the tip.