Microsoft’s Attempt At An Arduino Killer — Feels Like A Gimmick

Microsoft has thrown its hat into the open source hardware hobby market. Their offering is called the Gadgeteer. We’d love to tell you all about it, but the big M didn’t make it very easy to find out about the device and it’s addons. When we set out to find what processor is running on the board we were happy to see that they do call it an Open Source Hardware project, but no schematic is posted. When we did finally navigate to the hardware documentation it’s a file that must be downloaded and you’ve got to agree to their licensing before grabbing it. So that’s as far as we went, and now we’ll go back to using more open tools.

For those of you who aren’t scared off by the lack of openness, the first thing you’ll notice about this board is that it’s full of connector headers. Instead of the small rows that Arduino uses, the Gadgeteer is meant to use ribbon cables to connect to various breakout boards. You can program for the platform in C# using the .NET framework. This means using Microsoft Visual Studio for those that are already acquainted with the platform. But regular readers will note that we’re always looking for Linux support in our IDEs and you won’t find that here.

[Thanks Hrasdt (and several others) via Slashdot]

119 thoughts on “Microsoft’s Attempt At An Arduino Killer — Feels Like A Gimmick

    1. It would be awesome if you people added something to the conversation, rather than just saying “NOPE!”

      It IS realtime, at least it can be; I have a couple of Netduinos doing realtime work controlling essential machinery 24/7, and they work great.

      Here’s the thing: if people can use it to get work done, it’s valid. THE END. It doesn’t matter who makes it, how it’s made, what it does; if people can use it to get work done, IT’S VALID.

      This is a valid board.

  1. So that’s as far as we went.
    I wish that was true.
    I would have prefered to not have seen this article on hackaday, but here it is anyway.

    I’m completely fed up with Microsoft’s half truths which are in my opinion even worse than lies.

    On the other side some of the posters here seem to like this project and that justifies it being here I guess.

    At first sight the use of a lot of the same format connectors seem to make sense. But if you have a look at and look at his projects (He has a lot of them). Then you can see it becomes a big mess fast if you actually start using those connectors.

    Arduino on the other hand seems a bit limited in io capabilities at first sight, but if you can use I2C SPI and/or an 8-bit databus with a few adress lines and read/write signals then it’s enough to communicate with anything such a small cpu is capable of communicating with and it’s just enough.

    If I’d need more horsepower than an ATMEGA I’d rather use something similar to a FriendlyARM (Starting at EUR40 for a 400MHz ARM9).

  2. For what it is it is too expensive. Why pay them over $100 to get up and running when I can go to ebay and get an 100Mhz ARM cpu + ports + LCD color touch screen for under $100 ? Something that would cost over double that from MS ?

    search ebay for NXP ARM to see what I mean.

  3. I wish more comments were about the hardware rather than Microsoft. It’s kinda hard to have a discussion when it gets buried in “RAGGHHH MICROSOFT”. :/

    In Windows, .Net code is compiled to bytecode, and then compiled to native (NOT interpreted) by the Just In Time compiler. My understanding, though, is that it works fairly radically differently on WP7, Xbox 360, and presumably this thing. I’m…not sure how you’d handle all that with such little power. I mean, I like Visual Studio and C# and all, it just seems like kinda the wrong tool for the job.

  4. I’m not the Gadgeteer team, but I’ve asked Microsoft Research lots of questions about this so hopefully I can help clear things up a bit…

    The Gadgeteer inner core (a few thousand lines of code) and the .NET Micro Framework (a huge project) are both Apache 2.0/BSD open source software. Source code is at and

    The first board implementation seen here is a closed-source derivative of that open-source software (like building a version of Linux but close-sourcing the code). The microcontroller module it’s using (EMX) is a commercial closed-source offering.

    If you want to build your own Gadgeteer board, the core doesn’t yet provide drivers for things like cameras, 4-wire SD, USB Host, or many of the other accessories that GHI is offering. Those are not open source software.

    Everything that the Gadgeteer team has provided here (along with everything that the .NET Micro Framework team has provided) is open source. The Gadgeteer team has even made some open source reference designs available for Gadgeteer modules…pretty cool!

    GHI posted a note about this on their forums. Their company licenses patents, has a number of NDAs covering their platform and accessories, and uses third-party source code under license for their boards and accessories…they’ve stated that they unable to provide source code (or presumably patent licenses) for the their Gadgeteer mainboard or many accessory drivers.

    BTW, we have offered to make a truly 100% open source version of this (hardware, software, everything) that also works with the open source Mono toolchain on Mac/Linux…once the Gadgeteer drivers are also open sourced (i.e. support for things like cameras and most of the accessories seen in the videos). It’s definitely a niche product designed primarily for academics and researchers–but it would be a cool addition to see the whole thing available to the open source community. I’m certainly looking forward to Gadgeteer v2.0.

    Netduino Team

  5. Freaking sweet!

    And what is “arduino killer”… You mean Atmel killer? Atmel is a pretty big company. I don’t think they have anything to worry about. These generic “arduino” boards are targeted towards highschools and other low level beginners, this Microsoft product looks much more advanced – No comparison.

  6. Hello everyone,

    We have noticed some ambiguity about .NET Gadgeteer and about FEZ Spider Starter Kit. Also there might be some false assumptions.

    In this thread on our forum, we answer many of your questions (including the pricing, the source code licence, and the hardware design files).

    Also we ecourage you to contact us with any question or suggest since this platform is pretty new and all your comments will be very valuable.

    Note: GHI has not published yet any documentation about FEZ Spider Kit. More Information will be out between August and September 2011 and it is expected to include information about the open-source Sorftware/hardware license. So stay tuned ;)

    We have a comment here about this article:

    We strongly don’t believe that the title is fair!
    .NET Gadgeteer is NOT an Arduino killer. .NET Gadgeteer’s goal is to help software developer and hobbyists to develop hardware solutions the same way Arduino did. They probably share the same goals but they are different and they coexist.
    Arduino is such a respectable platform that became an inspiration for many other solutions such as seeeduino, or Cortexuino. Even, as many of you know that, it inspired us with our FEZ Domino and FEZ Panda II boards.

    A last word, everyone is invited to contribute to .NET Gadgeteer project (indivisuals or companys)

    GHI Electronics

    1. Thanks Joe for posting more details and comments(which I fully agree with). HAD I just lost some respect for you for posting an article clearly has a misleading title and is way under researched.

  7. its funny how companies try to reinvent good ideas and then it flops, then they blame the consumer because company wanted to lock it down and make it otherwise useless… Anyone remember the sony location free?

  8. Once again, Microsoft releases too little, too late, for too much money. Another Zune for the market.

    Now, people are saying the board is more powerful than the Arduino, but the Arduino is more flexible, modular, and is made for building prototypes, not production-level stuff. It’s a hobbyist plaftorm.

    To be fair, this isn’t the usual Microsoft M.O. of intellectual property theft (Windows 95 vs. Mac OS), acquisitions of companies that turn out better products (Bungie) or producing failure-prone products and then overcharging the customer to fix them (every Microsoft OS since 98, and the overpriced fees for tech support). They simply made another Zune.

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