[Massimo] Talks About Arduino Clones

pick one

Back in 2005, the Arduino was just a twinkle in they eyes of [Massimo Banzi] and the other core developers. Since then, you can’t go to any electronics site without hitting something beginning with ‘ard~’ or ending with ‘~duino’. The platform has become so popular, people everywhere are piggybacking on the name to the point of trademark infringement or simply outright counterfeiting one of the many official Arduino boards. Now [Massimo] has something to say about these clones, ripoffs, derivatives, and ‘duino-compatible boards.

On the list of things bad for the open source ecosystem, [Massimo] points to direct clones of existing Arduino boards. While these boards are electrically identical to officially licensed boards, they simply don’t support the Arduino project financially and usually don’t contribute to the existing libraries and code. Even worse are counterfeits; these boards copy the trademarks of the Arduino project – sometimes terribly given the three examples above (guess which one is the real one) – and directly profit off of the Arduino project without giving any support in return.

There are other veins of Arduino that [Massimo] considers more acceptable. Arduino-compatible boards, seen by the dozen over on Kickstarter, usually add something of their own, be it a radio chip, or an entirely different microcontroller. Derivatives, like Teensy and Adafruit’s Flora actually bring new things to the table with improved hardware and new and interesting libraries.

As far as counterfeits and clones go, we can’t agree more with what [Massimo] has to say. You have to admire the folks in the Arduino project being so open about their creations and admiring the Arduino derivatives that bring some new hardware to the table. Then again, that’s the lesson of the Arduino project; you can make hardware open source and still be outrageously popular.

60 thoughts on “[Massimo] Talks About Arduino Clones

  1. I am a bit baffled by this – if your existing licence is being abused, surely you change the terms so that derivative works are supported but clones are not permitted?

    1. but that won’t change a thing ,clones will still be made. The fact that anyone can build an arduino with an atmega chip and a breadboard means that clones will *always* be part of arduino.

      Then again, you have to ask yourself how open is open source? Open, to me would be ‘Take it, do what you like with it, no matter who you are’.

      1. Open Source means you get to take a peek at the source materials (code in the case of software, schematics in the case of hardware). Not the same thing as Free Software, which has provisions for sharing, modifying, and distributing the software.

        It’s part of the reason why Linux distros that push for Free Software use Ice Weasel instead of Firefox. Same exact browser, but with all of Mozilla’s trademarks scrubbed off.

    2. Clones are not a problem unless they are actual counterfeits (claiming to be real Arduinos), but those are already against the terms – specifically, against the trademark.

      The problem is that you’d have to sue them to get them to stop, which is not practical for a small company/project.

          1. I’ve always thought of eBay being “shadier” than Amazon, so finding out that it is harder to get Amazon to do the right thing is enlightening.

          2. Well Genius, thanks to your action, Chinese guys have jacked up prices for clone A*** Mega boards from $15 to $60. They’re making more money, consumers still getting ripped off, and you get a bad reputation because fake products that seem legitimate because of the price break frequently.

            Are you satisfied, asshole?

          3. Well, just because something is Open Source doesn’t mean it has to be ripped off, trademarks and all. So I agree with you. Anyway, the people who buy rip offs are not interested in having the real thing. If they could get it for free, they would (freeloaders, or cheapskates, aren’t they?). $20 for an Arduino Uno is not unreasonable, and it is actually very cheap.

            My issue with Arduino is that many people get stuck with it in detriment of learning real C and do real electronic projects.

    3. This is pointless and utterly dumb on the pirates side.

      So you have a product that sells for $30.

      There’s a market that can’t afford it for $30 (mostly for exchange reasons)

      There’s chinese factores that can churn those out for $5

      Instead of buying those damn boards for $5, calling them “arduino clone” and branding them “myFirstNot-an-arduino” and selling for $10 and selling a truck load to that new market, they instead buy the boards for $5, brand them “official extra original arduinos, i promiseTM” and sell for $30 and fight for the very same market that the actual original ones alread go after!

      it’s the most moronic thing.

      And it’s not just on dealextreme.com. I returned two from amazon until i finally got an official one. and the clones were pretty close!

      1. Why are you considering this a mutually exclusive choice? Sell a bunch of clones to people who are ok with that, for $5 profit. Simultaneously sell counterfeits to people who want the genuine item, but can’t tell it’s a fake, when you can; and although it won’t be as many, each sale nets 5x more profit. Tapping both market demographics at the same time is the most profitable option.

  2. I personally hope arduino gets driven into the ground where it belongs. Why anyone would want such a POS to begin with, let alone clone it is beyond me. Oh thats right, it’s easy, its easy to program, it’s easy to “borrow” code for it, it comes with little widgets premade that you can stick on it. All forcing you to conform to it. The reason it is cloned in different forms is to keep all of the “easy” and to be able to scale it to your needs, not pay $40 for a glorified 555 timer that forces you to its structure. Use an AVR, use a PIC, use an FPGA or CPLD use an ARM, whatever… get over the need for instant gratifaction, learn assembly, learn “REAL” C++, learn to design your own boards!!! Getting locked into the POS arduino thing is only handicapping you!

    1. As a person who writes embedded systems code for a living (on all those other platforms you mention and more) you’re wrong. It’s a very good thing that people can get a cheese sandwich without having to become a dairy farmer and personally milk the cow. It certainly doesn’t stop you from doing it that way if you want to, or you want a special type of cheese. And it keeps dairy farmers employed.

      1. Not to mention the up front costs of buying land, buying the cow, buying the bucket etc. Personally I prefer an egg and cress sandwich! Arduino has opened the door to millions of people who may otherwise never become interested, fostering new ideas and creations.

      2. Prototype away on it, but it’s never “just” a prototype for most. Its the end product, a blinky LED or whatever with A LOT of extra pony’s and expense lying around doing NOTHING. If you would take said creation, scale it to what it should be, you are wayyyyy ahead of the farmer. You have money left over. Most projects I see could be done with a $2 retail PIC with an internal osc. on a piece of protoboard and the cone written with a free notepad app!

        1. For many people using Arduino, their goal is a “project”, not making a “product”. For many, it’s even mostly about “learning” or “fun”.

          Of course, if you are making a product for high volume production, a lot of engineering time to reduce the bill-of-materials cost makes sense. But that cost trade-off, where your hours invested cost far less than the cost of $20-some dollars in physical parts, simply does not apply for so many people.

        2. Not if your time costs actual money. For me just setting up a barebones PIC and uploading my first program takes me at least half an hour, sometimes more. Arduino is plug-and-play and it has the headers already there. All the displays, RF modules and whatnots connect instantly to it and someone has already written a library.

          Second point: “learn C++” – everything IS C++, with some of the gory details of pin setup hidden from the user. I actually enjoy this for prototyping stuff rather than having to mess around with bit logic AND see if somehow I forgot to disable ANSEL, ANCOMP or whatever.

          Third point is your complain that they just get tossed away into half-baked projects. If the projects serves its purpose, took less time to make and allow you to move onto next cool project what’s the problem? It’s all win.

          Disclaimer: I don’t own an Arduino, I can program C/C++ and have done so for PIC, AVR and MSP430. I do however own a few launchpad boards (MSP430 and stellaris) and love them, especially with Energia. I will buy more of them in a heartbeat.
          With that said, I find all Arduino offers obscenely expensive, keeping me away from purchasing them. The Stellaris Launchpad is half the price (or less?) and offers a lot more bang.

          1. Yeah, I forgot it’s Tiva now, even the uC names are changed from LM4F120HQR to TM4C1233H6PM, some datasheet links do not work etc.

            Ranting offtopic, I consider myself a bit business savvy and still cannot understand the reasons behind a such rebranding. TI was a pretty strong brand and with no negative feelings attached. I can only see two reasons for this: some hotshot new boss has to leave a mark (i.e. new direction/strategy) or the company has money to burn.

    2. I use Arduino boards for my simple needs because i have no time or place to learn how to make boards from scratch or study ADC spec sheets, but i have done programming for 20 years. None of my projects are pushing limits of Arduino boards available.

      You sir, are wrong.

          1. The answer: He is an elitist who hates the fact that people are doing something he has always prided himself as being the only one who can do it. He has no life so the Arduino crushes his fragile ego and he has to vent the anger here.

    3. The whole “keep the bar high to keep the noobs and posers out” sentiment is as old as time. Voice sucks, real hams use code. Digital control systems suck, use analog. PLDs suck, use discrete logic. 555s suck, use a multivibrator instead.

      Get over it. Nobody except a few elitist do-nothings on HaD will question your skillz if you make an autonomous hexapod with an Arduino and a RasPi. But if you spend four extra years building it because it’s impure to control it with anything but a wire-wrapped Z80 control board with hand built machine code, nobody will ever see it.

      1. Not setting the bar high, It’s a challenge to better yourself, you should be a newb forever, ALWAYS LEARNING. Sticking with the arduino handicaps you. You know how to download some crap code off the library. SO WHAT? Learn how the thing works, write your own code, do a little perfboarding and you will have skills (not hard at all to learn) that would show you you don’t need to have your hand held by some freaking over glorified basic stamp. I mean, if you want to spend $30 a wack to make a blinky LED or whatever, by all means do! it’s your $$$. But if you want to save $30 off the top of your project, start with a micro that is suited to your project because this thing is both way overkill and way underkill all in one expensive package. If i was massimo, I’ve be terrified too, because people are catching on to the fact! They copy a rather simplistic board, that is still wayyyyyy over-complicated for most needs and scale it down, and then they have the IDE and libraries for free for those who are afraid of a little code and make a killing off of it. Then when folks learn that a straight up AVR or PIC without all of that extra garbage can do MORE than the arduino and it only costs $2?! He should have just kept the board all to his self, never released it and sold the software instead. But I can see getting kids hooked on your hardware and robbing them every time they want to blink a LED… The only problem is there are 300 ways that are easier to do it and 10 X less expensive!

        1. Cool story. Learning something the hard way is great the first time. Doing it the hard way every time is a waste of time. Yes, many people drop a pile of cash on an Arduino and supporting hardware just to blink an LED. Some get past that and do more advanced things. Some don’t. Some people go through the same process with Picaxe / 555 / Basic Stamp / Papilio / Mbed, it’s all the same.

          Why is this any of your business? Why get so worked up if people aren’t learning all the skills out there from the get-go? If most Arduino users will never single step debug their code with an ICE, or write an ISR in assembly to insure low latency, so what? Getting that LED to blink for someone afraid of programming for hardware is empowering.

          Back in the day, I wrote much assembly for an HC11 SBC I resurrected from the trash, made prototypes of a product for my internship out of PIC16C84 samples and a com port programmer I made from discretes, and debugged my SPI and I2C drivers with an analog scope for lack of better tools. Hell if I’m doing any of that again. I’d much rather use Arduino or whatever startup code + libraries for whatever micro I have on hand.

          As to being over-featured, Arduinos are little more than breakouts for the AVR with a USB-serial bridge. Sand is cheap, so ending up with a heap of interfaces you’ll never use on an SoC is standard fare nowadays. The idea that you’re wasting something is bogus since most SoCs in a product line are the same die with different bondout or fuse configs.

        2. Microcontrollers aren’t used just for the sake of using microcontrollers. There’s no point unless they accomplish a purpose, and Arduino aids in that pursuit, like it or not.

          If someone doesn’t care to learn more about programming microcontrollers, that’s their prerogative. It leaves more time to cultivate other skills, all just as valuable, if not more so.

        3. @Eatith: I seriously doubt you learned anything yourself without anyone helping you. Maybe your engineer/technician dad, or your college professors… but there is next to no chance that you learned all your “mad embedded skillz” in a vacuum. Some people do not have the same privileges you did. I did not have an engineer dad to teach me calculus when I was 15, so I had to learn it in public school like most other people, which put me at a disadvantage, however slight. I did, however, have the privilege of a great EE education that has helped me develop the embedded skills to rival even a 1337 HaX0r J3D1 like yourself. I do not find it hard to read datasheets, but I do remember trying to read them when I was in high school. I got nothing out if them. A lot of times, people don’t have the privilige of someone helping them learn bare-metal uC programming… they don’t even know what where to look for information. Yes, playing with Lego Mindstorms is not the most money-efficient or leet thing, but engaging in such a terrible waste of resources when I was a clueless middle school student has made it much easier for me to become the “1337 3mb3dd3d c0DEL0RD” I am now (wow, i must be almost as l337 as you are!). I have never touched an Arduiono myself, but I can see how they have helped many people get their start and not become discouraged by the steep learning curve (you really do forget how steep it can be) and actually have a chance of graduating to something better and more interesting. For myself, I will keep on working on weaning myself of even StellarisWare and bit-twiddling every register myself… and then proceeding to buy an FPGA devkit and writing my own softcore complete with compilers and BSP builder utilities… but I am able to do this only because I started small and easy and have had many people help me along the way… and because I like low-level… but I have great respect for the more high-level oriented people, and nothing but admiration for projects like Arduino that make it easy for anyone to get a start.

    4. Really, HaD??? We have to put up with this guy? He isn’t even a well-informed or funny troll. He is just some dumb fat kid that is bored in class. I’ll have to add this douche to the other two well known alts I have filtered in chrome.

      I Absolutely loved pelrun’s explanation of things :)

    5. You know, Arduino is built on AVR microcontrollers (and ARM Cortex M3 in the case of the Due). Compared to other prototyping platforms, Arduino boards are quite competitive, price-wise. I don’t see you pissing and moaning about BASIC Stamps or the Propeller P8X32A QuickStart.

      You also don’t program a 555 timer — those are controlled entirely by circuitry, and their only function is to send out electrical pulses (though, that is an extremely handy function, especially given a 555 timer’s different modes of operation).

      And you know what, not everyone needs to learn C or AVR Assembly, nor does everyone need to use the Arduino platform as a prototype of a more refined microcontroller project. The Arduino is meant for designers, to quickly demonstrate a concept, and for hobbyists, who just want to get their projects working and don’t necessarily care that much about the finer details of microcontrollers.

      But even if used as prototyping platform, the simplified C is excellent for quickly hammering out a project. No reason Arduino can’t be used on a bare AVR for more “serious” engineering projects. The broad and generous set of libraries and code snippets available online is one of Arduino’s greatest strengths, and one of the cornerstones of rapid engineering is not reinventing the wheel for the umpteenth time.

      Furthermore, given the open source nature of Arduino, there’s no reason you can’t build your own board to your own specs for your own purposes. There’s no reason you can’t flash an AVR chip with the Arduino bootloader and have a DIY breadboard Arduino clone (which is to say nothing of all the Arduino variants that readily plug into a breadboard).

      Aw hell, I don’t even know why I even took the time to reply to this thread. It’s obvious Eatith Mee is a trolling little shithead that read enough to pull phrases like “glorified 555 timer” out of his ass without even understanding what it means, and who has never so much written a “Hello World” program in his life. Somebody slap me for this sordid waste of time.

    6. It is all about accessibility. I tried teaching myself how to program in C when I was 15. After reading 50 pages of datasheets and textbooks, I got an LED to blink. Not to mention hours of dking around with drivers, trying to configure software, fuses. I lost interest. Not to mention lack of community support. Now I started programming with Arduino and sparked my interest enough to pursue an EE degree with the goal to make DIY electronics more accessible.

  3. A basic Arduino is just an AVR chip with some peripheral circuitry and a bootloader. Moaning that people clone it and don’t want to overpay to support “the community” (this means who?) is not right to me. They decided to make it open, thus benefiting of other people committing and extending the ecosystem for free. They got the benefits, Arduino is an uberpopular platform, so let them pay the price also.
    If it was only the original Arduino that was available to people, I’m sure it would never reach the popularity it now has.

    1. The funny thing is, the Arduino platform is almost entirely derived from another AVR-based development platform called Wiring which had their own boards aimed at the same market as Arduino. They did essentially all the original software development and design and all the work on making it easy for non-programmers to code, not the Arduino project.

    2. The main issue is quality control. Official boards are guaranteed a certain level of quality. Clones and knockoffs are not.

      Then there’s also a matter of supporting continued development. Nobody has any quarrel with products based on Arduino that bring something new, interesting, or otherwise useful to the table. But a perfect 1:1 clone, though legal it may be, just diverts funds from designing new Arduino boards.

      Furthermore, the Arduino brand is not open source. It’s trademarked, and copying that is counterfeiting.

  4. Someone creates an open source microcontroller platform and gets cheesed off when people copy it? Am I missing something here?

    I use Picaxes anyway, sure the bootloader in them is proprietary but they’re so easy to use because you program them with Basic and they need extremely minimal components to run and program. I only bought one pre-made Picaxe board and that was when I started with them to ensure that I had something working out-of-the-box before I got into breadboarding and veroboarding them (which turned out far far easier than I had imagined)

  5. This article made it sound like Massimo took a harder line against the clones than he did. He said that clones had a place in the market, though did mention that they rarely contribute to development in any way. Counterfeits are what he showed strong opposition to, and rightfully so.

      1. Hi,
        I’ve actually read the original article some time ago, before it has been featured here. The wording of the author of the Hackaday post: “Even worse are counterfeits” suggests that clones are bad, with what I strongly disagree, as I think they do to Arduino what IBM PC compatibles did to IBM PC architecture. It’s true that you, Massimo, were not criticizing the clones as much as the Hackaday author, so I apologize for not refreshing the contents of your article and thus being too emotional in my comment. I was mislead by Brian Benchoff’s summary, which I took for granted.

        Counterfeits are an obvious abuse which should not be tolerated, while clones – I think – add to the popularity of the platform for the community’s good, even if it doesn’t directly profit owners of the Arduino brand.

        Best regards,
        P.S. I own both an endorsed board, and a clone.

  6. I wasn’t aware that the logos weren’t open source. The clones I’ve bought acknowledge that they are clones, but they do carry the logo. I guess Massimo would call them counterfeits.

    To see the economic case for buying a genuine Arduino, you have to look beyond the product you’re buying. When you can buy a clone made from quality parts with quality soldering for $13, the warranty on the genuine product doesn’t mean much. Just buy two (or three) of the clones against the unlikely event one of them fails. A genuine Arduino is not a better product; that’s the wrong way to pitch it. It’s a thank-you gift to the designer and, in a broader sense, an encouragement for more people to open-source their designs.

  7. Question to Massimo Banzi:

    Where is the line drawn between clone and derivative, in your opinion? For a couple of concrete examples, where would you place, say, a Ruggeduino and a Seeeduino?

    It’s just a point of curiosity, mostly.

  8. “Waaanh” is all I here. The clone makers may not contribute to the “ecosystem”, but the folks buying them sure do.

    I liked the pretty box my Uno came in, unfolded it and saw the excellently made board in there, a light shone down from above and I heard a distinct “aaaaaaaahhhhh” sound in the background — but that only happened the first time I opened one — after that it was like, “meh, that costs 30 bucks?”. If you want people to shell out hard earned money for your (overpriced) product you’ve got to give them value…and they decide what value means to them. Where is a techdirt editor when you need one?

  9. As somebody that got in to microcontrollers purely due to the Arduino I have found it an ideal way in to something I would not have tried otherwise. Those that preach it is rubbish are missing the whole point of the project.

    Since the Arduino is open source it was inevitable that there were going to be clones and copies. I also believe the Arduino would not have been so successful without being open source and like many other thnings, the more successful you are the more people copy you.
    Now that I am a little wiser, I do find the price of original boards expensive and knowingly buy clones/copies, especially when I want a board for a long term project. I have purchased original boards is an attempt to “support the community” but I also have access to very cheap boards from China. My last batch of Nanos were about US $5 each (including courier) and these were not the cheapest on offer.

  10. counterfittting an OPEN-SOURCE platform
    is akin to calling one’s self STUPID andor BRAIN-DEAD

    it was A FREE DESIGN provided you gave yours a slightly different name!!!
    but they couldnt even do that!?!?!?!
    uh dude, whats my name again? lol

    but these guys STILL couldnt even slap thier own *****-**** name on it.
    as in Freeduino or Yourduino is allowed but Arduino is not.

    some people

    1. ps you can find an EXACT and ACCURATE outline of any country on google or ANY world map/globe, but the creators couldnt even do that?!?!!?!?!?
      … and i LOL at them

    2. The Arduino trademark is not open source. The board design is open source, and Massimo isn’t complaining about clones and compatibles, albeit with a note that non-official boards don’t support Arduino.

      The main problem is when someone clones the board and tries to pass it off as something official.

      Maybe you should actually read the article before vomiting up your baseless anger.

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