Adafruit And The Arduinos At Maker Faire

The apparent lull on the Arduino front the last few weeks was just the calm before the storm that is the Bay Area Maker Faire (BAMF). Both companies claiming the Arduino name were there over the weekend, with news and new products in tow. Ironically, you could see from one booth straight over to the other. Small world.

Perhaps the biggest news from Arduino LLC is that hacker-friendly Adafruit is now going to be making officially-licensed boards in the US. Competing with this news, Arduino SRL brought its new boards, including the Yun Mini and ARM-powered Arduino M0. And [Massimo Banzi] and Arduino LLC seem to be taking an end-run around the Arduino SRL trademark by announcing the “Genuino” brand for European production. For all the details, read on!

The Adafruit Connection

As announced by [Massimo] in his “State of the Arduino” keynote speech at the BAMF, Arduino is licensing Adafruit to produce a range of the “most-requested” Arduino boards at their factory in New York. So those of you looking to support Arduino LLC with your purchases also get to help line [Ladyada]’s pockets at the same time. That’s a big win in our book.

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Photo: Atmel

It’s not a complete surprise that Adafruit should get tapped as a US fab for Arduino.cc. They’ve been selling the boards and producing copious Arduino-related tutorials since their beginnings in 2005. More recently, Adafruit partnered with Arduino LLC to create the Gemma board, which is basically an ATTiny85-based Arduino-a-like in a tiny round, wearable-friendly board. (If you’re familiar with the Adafruit lineup, it’s essentially a Trinket in the round format of a LilyPad Arduino.)

Indeed, after the deal is done and the dust has settled, it’s a bit surprising to us that this hasn’t happened earlier, what with both Adafruit and Sparkfun producing licensed boards and Arduino LLC looking for new manufacturers. Anyway, good job Adafruit and Arduino (LLC)!

(New) Hardware from Arduino SRL

Arduino SRL had its Yun Mini, which is essentially a smaller version of the Yun — a mashup of an Arduino Leonardo with an OpenWRT-capable router chipset. We’ve reported on these previously but it’s fun to see them in the flesh.

yun_m0_images

The M0 is interesting. Before the troubles began, Arduino designed an ARM-M0+ based board with Atmel. Now Arduino LLC has it listed on their website as the Arduino Zero, but still hasn’t got any for sale yet. Arduino SRL has the boards on their website as the Arduino Zero Pro, with a different name, but is now touting this version as the “M0 Pro”. What’s in a name? Not much. The circuit layouts and parts appear identical.

The Portal Battle

Both of the Arduino companies are working on getting your Arduino development into “the cloud”. (Conscience compels us to note that “the cloud” is actually just other people’s computers.) Anyway, this essentially means new web-based and browser-based versions of the IDE that tie into web services. Interestingly enough, the two companies have different takes on what that entails.

According to their Maker Faire press release, Arduino SRL will be launching a web portal for makers to “promote and distribute their products” and share code and ideas. Located at my.arduino.org (which currently seems to be password-access only), the idea seems to be to create a mini-Tindie for Arduino-based products. This couples with their “Arduino IDE-alpha”, a JavaScript-based IDE that will run in the browser.

Blogpost_f9Meanwhile, Arduino LLC displayed previously announced their alternative development platform, Arduino Create. Arduino Create lets you write, compile and upload sketches “directly from the browser with the Arduino Web Editor”, and store your code in the “Arduino Cloud”. Arduino Create looks slick: certainly a lot better than the homely Java IDE that we’re all used to. It’s too early to tell what this “cloud” is all about, but it looks like it will include code sharing, schematic and wiring hookup storage, and easy sharing among users.

We already use blogs, Hackaday.io (shameless plug!), Github, and other “cloud” services to store our projects and code, so we’re not entirely sure what either of these portal offerings will bring to the table. It’s 2015, is anyone still hurting for project hosting space on the web?

Cynically, we note that both of these companies are in a battle to “own” the Arduino community and that getting people to host code and projects on their servers is an obvious strategy, and providing a web-based IDE to facilitate this capture is the tactic.

And before we leave “the cloud”, we should note that both Arduinos are late to the game. codebender has been around and programming Arduinos on the web since 2012.

New Names

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Photo: Making Society

Finally, as if it weren’t bad enough with Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL, [Massimo Banzi] also announced that licensed boards for the European market will be sold under the new “Genuino”.

Actually, this is a pretty cagey maneuver, because it side-steps the European trademark issues (which [Massimo] referred to as “the bullsh*t” in his talk) and is a cute name to boot. “Genuine”, get it?

Our take? As [Massimo] almost said in this video interview with Make, “a rose by any name would smell as sweet.” If Arduino LLC loses the trademark lawsuit in Italy, they’ll not be allowed to sell boards using the “Arduino” name. The best way to limit the damage in the future is to make the switch now, while everyone is watching, and give the market time to adapt.

67 thoughts on “Adafruit And The Arduinos At Maker Faire

        1. Because you didn’t look at the shipping, you knob. There are plenty of 2560s on Ebay for ridicu-cheap with free shipping. Because a lot of repraps use ’em, they’ve gotten much cheaper over the past few years.

    1. No, it’s about judges, and their interpretation of the bee-like dancing of the lawyers. Magnetic fields and honeycomb networking aside, even the most expensive law firms generally withold their opinion on these cses until after there’s been a finding (or two or three)

  1. Ah, a good opportunity to tell both enfant terribles what a couple of unworthy whining children they are and to stop acting like infants or go bust.
    Indeed, clones from China!

    1. So if a company you owned was being challenged by someone that changed their company’s name to yours and then sued you for it, you’d just roll over and let them? That’s the most asinine thing I’ve heard this week.

        1. For the record, yes I suspect the winner will be China in the long term. Most ideas that start off on a ‘ahrduweeno platform of some description will never be produced in large numbers, those that do hit the big time will almost invariably be produced in China.

          That goes for finished products and clone ‘dwine-esque boards. China produces cheaper. Thats a fact. In small volumes or large. Furthermore pretty much any microcontroller can run be made to run the basic ‘dwino code base since it is designed to be portable across different platforms. Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself… http://stm32duino.com/index.php – not a dwino.org or dwino.cc in sight, but it runs ‘dwino code.

          Open source is just that. Open… Source… in every respect of those two words.

          1. I wonder what your concept of “winning” looks like?

            Even if your only goal is profit, is it better to sell one million products with $15 margin, or 20 million with mere pennies profit?

            Even if you only care about money, isn’t a good reputation as the technology leader, as the place where people will look for new products, worth something? Or would you prefer to always be an untrustworthy “no name” copycat, where nobody would ever think to buy anything new, only copies of stuff already well established and tested by the real source?

            This may seem unbelievable, but there are indeed people in this world who care about intangible goals. That’s not to say they don’t also want to be profitable, but maximizing profit isn’t their only motivation. I’m one of those people. So are the real Arduino devs. To people like us, success is measured in more ways than dollars. We really do care about empowering and enabling more people to create awesome projects and learn skills that otherwise would have been inaccessible.

            When you consider who “wins”, in a perspective of achieving awesome intangible goals and moderate profit to reliably sustain and grow the platform, I’m pretty sure the winner isn’t Chinese cloners.

    1. I was wondering about that. What did Arduino actually contribute, other than community building (which is of course very important)? And what did they do to build that community, did they just happen to be there at the right time, or did they actively push into a new direction?

      The hardware isn’t all that sophisticated and there are better (and/or cheaper) boards made by others. As you said, the IDE and the programming framework isn’t really theirs — and I don’t actually like either of them: event-based programming and plugins to other IDEs/editors would actually be much better.

      So the AVR chips are nice because they are cheap (when not inside an official Arduino) and, most importantly, very robust. But I don’t really get what’s so great about Arduino?

      1. again, its the wealth of examples and libraries and schematics that people contributed. the designers started it going and they deserve a lot of thanks for that. I’m not sure they were genius level but they were good, they did us all a service and they did for controllers what linux did for alternative os’s. it BOOTED it up in a super major way.

        the IDE is crap but its also meant to be simple and not to be a pro level tool. it succeeded since it did give enough power to do what you need without the usual huge learning curve. sometimes deciding what NOT to put into a product is more important and they did exercise restraint. the IDE is pretty basic but many of us are able to write huge apps even with such a junk UI. I’ve filled 328 chips to the max with code – sometimes taking 12k lines of c++ and all done via their gui. a little painful but still, I got it done.

        if I need to do something, I search for it and usually I find examples that I can integrate and extend or just plain use as-is. I don’t see that with any other controller platform, not pic, not TI’s not even ARM chips. if I need to get something done quick, it will be an arduino and the wealth of user contrib examples. THAT is what its all about.

        I have been a software guy since the late 70’s but avoided getting into controller level stuff. when the basic stamp first came out, I got into that a bit but the price was insanely high and I didn’t go very far with it. I could not see making product from it; it was JUST a learning platform for me. when the arduino came along, it changed everything. I learned a lot more about embedded systems and became pretty good at it (I found). the principles apply and I found I liked what I was able to accomplish, even with a tiny code size and i/o constraint.

        I’m ready to jump into ARM work now, but I probably would not have been quite as ready if I didn’t have all this arduino-level training (self-taught entirely from online sources and DIY’s at home) and experience.

        I fully believe that the arduino ‘movement’ was to controllers what the linux o/s was to servers and networked systems. a game-changer.

        1. You’re wasting your breath. He’s the kind of programmer who sneers at BASIC because it can’t do everything C does and teaches bad practice. Yet the existence of BASIC is the whole reason I became a programmer at a time before the internet existed and when computers weren’t cool. If I’d had to start with C, I’d probably have given up. Which is just what I did when I first wanted to get into electronics and all I had to work with was a confusing Radio Shack 100 Electronic Projects toy.

          Even years later as an adult, when I again wanted to start working with electronics, my first try at making a circuit using some shift registers and a 555 timer failed, and I had no hope of diagnosing the issue. I tried again with a simpler 555 and 4096 circuit and that worked, but I was still hopelessly lost, and progress was so slow that I nearly gave up again, but I was making money selling things with blinking lights, so I continued, and it was this incentive which drove me to take a look at the Arduino so I could speed up my learning process. And speed it up it did. Almost overnight I went from only being able to blink a few LEDs in sequence to being able to move servos, generate sound effects in real time and play them through a DAC, do complex LED animations, and read potentiometers and touch switches. My years of game programming experience on limited hardware helped in this regard, but it was thanks to the Arduino that I could put those years of experience to work, and it was thanks to all the libraries available for it that I was able to get all that stuff up and running so quickly. I could surely have written my own servo or audio library eventually, but having the libraries with source code available taught me how things like interrupts and timers worked on the processor and more importantly allowed me to see results immediately which kept things fun and kept me motivated.

        2. It’s interesting that many of the pros you cite for Arduino are not all that dissimilar to the OOPic. A reasonably cheap board, a huge plug-in library to pull from and a reasonably sized user base.

          Dead now and almost no one cares.

          1. OOPic, and several similar approaches (BASICX anyone?) all were too similar to Prallax’s approach to BASIC Stamp.

            Arduino also got spoiled by the cool things art and media types did with it in its first uses..

      2. For a lot of people, those alternative IDEs are too daunting.

        Along comes a decent (not great) thing which is a whole platform: Boards, IDE, and it’s SIMPLE. I can’t stress that enough. SIMPLE is what Arduino did. It allowed people to get into it. The better thing is that they didn’t change the underlying power, making it (unlike a lot of those alternative IDEs) easy to adapt to other boards. Edit or Throw a boards.txt in a folder and it’s good for another board.

        From what I’ve seen of a lot of the other IDEs, something trivial like the blink sketch for Arduino, requires you to know exactly what you are doing already. They aren’t for beginners.(Now some have started to go that way after Arduino, so far I haven’t seen one that gets it.)

        SIMPLE for users. Powerful enough to be used for more serious uses. That’s the revolution.

    2. Actually they fight about the name that makes them the money with all that… “crap2gold” – that should be a familiar business model, so no surprise. It’s the easiness that comes with the community generated content and support which is worth quite a lot, and who ever wins the community, keeps the income.

    3. Yes, they built on top of avr-gcc and wiring and processing, and added a “messed-up pin header spacing”.

      But you left out the part where they lowered the bar to entry into microcontroller programming and opened up a market to MILLIONS of people. They’ve sold roughly 3 million boards over the last several years. Along the way, hundreds of startups have built derived or related products. Numerous developers have adopted a practice of publishing software in Ardino’s library format.

      Maybe it’ll always seem childish in your opinion, but from where I’m standing, creating a huge market and enabling many millions of people to do things they previous couldn’t do, or couldn’t do nearly so easily, hardly seem’s like child’s play.

      1. I fully agree with Paul, there is a big difference between combining some stuff and making it work for you and a couple of other people and making it work for a million people. There is Always something that could be better, the fact that a “flaw” is discussed by this many people is a sign of succes.

  2. Sadly for you rubes with loose pockets, there are much better microcontrollers out there at a better price point, with no need to fund Chinese counterfeiters. But you’ll stick to your children’s toys for all the same tired reasons….

    1. Well, I still buy arduinos and even at retail prices because I can plug random bits in, click a working one-function sketch (or write by own in a few hours) and hand it to someone who can use, duplicate and extend it, so I’m a big fan of the Arduino COMMUNITY, just not the children.

      1. Didn’t you get the memo? On Hackaday your work is worthless unless you’ve grown and etched the silicon for your micro yourself. Everyone here has infinite free time and money to do everything the hard way to impress total strangers. That’s the only way to earn valuable Internet points.

      2. What’s counterfeit about a Chinese clone? The Arduino guys published the schematic, and the boot loader and IDE are free, so the guys in China are just making them to fill the demand.

        1. Sure, clones are allowed, just not clones marked the same as the original.

          The Arduino logo, little picture of Italy, the outright lie that it’s made in Italy (or whatever Adafruit will be printing on the new genuine boards) with zero carbon footprint would be the part that’s counterfeit, when it’s actually a Chinese clone.

          Maybe you can’t fathom that anyone would wish to buy a genuine board? Maybe you can’t imagine that cloners would intentionally print the trademark logo and other markings that identify it the genuine article, and sell at prices similar to the genuine boards?

          That does actually happen. Those Chinese cloners do mark some clones as close as they can to the genuine boards. They’re NOT doing that just to give you something that looks pretty. They deceptively mark clones to look like the original so they can try to sell them at the same high prices as the original. THAT is counterfeiting!

          1. I’ve never seen one of those counterfeit Arduinos come out of China, in spite of ordering over 30 boards so far, including nano, pro mini, and mega clones. But I do have one real Due board that I bought from a reputable supplier of real Arduino brand boards (only because I didn’t see a Due clone at the time). I don’t have any problem with the real Arduino brand, but there are instances where I know my little <$2 pro mini clone may be destroyed while using it in a rocket altimeter or similar project, and I would rather destroy as little money as possible.
            There is even some anecdotal evidence of the clones not lasting as log or being as reliable, although I have not had any problems with the boards I have.

  3. Fortunately or unfortunately, this will all end up in the footnote-to-history column. Arduino was an important innovative force that sired the low-cost development board movement. But that time is over.

    There is a cycle that ideas like Arduino go through. First, there is a new idea that excites people, and a lot of creative energy is thrown into it. Next, the mainstream media picks it up, it becomes popular with the masses and everyone wants in, so supply increases to meet demand. Finally, it becomes a commodity.

    Arduino has reached the commodity stage. The world is full of cheaper knock-offs, and the name “Arduino” itself is close to becoming a generic indicating a cheap Arduino-style board. Interest has moved on to more powerful boards like the Raspberry Pi, and now the Raspi2. As other commenters have noted, aside from the entertainment value, the outcome of this dispute will not make much difference one way or other. Massimo may have hit on a good idea to change the name.

    1. Arduinos and Linux-running SBCs like Raspberry Pi are nearly orthogonal solutions for most applications. This is why there are all permutations of SBCs with Arduino shield footprints and SBC add-ons with Arduino compatible micros. All of these platforms are intended for ease-of-use. So while you can do real-time on a RasPi or networking on an Arduino, most people buying into the environment are doing so because it frees them up to work on the crux of their project instead of yak shaving.

      1. Agreed. Arduino shields, libraries, even clones, are all important precisely because they are commodities that can be plugged into a project without too much effort. But does anyone care if it is a “genuine Arduino”, or even another Arduino-compatible board. That was my point.

        1. if the genuine parts were more affordable, I’d prefer them. the crap china stuff annoys the hell out of me, but I’m on a limited budget and cant’ afford ‘proper’ parts, oftentimes.

          I would not embed a china product in a thing I am building for sale or for a friend; I could not trust it to run as long as I’d want. but for testing POC’s and learning, the china crap is good enough; and if I ruin it, it does not ruin my day ;)

          the last time I bought an actual arduino was the ‘do-me-love’ board (to this day, I have no idea how to pronounce the real name, lol). it seems well made and all, but it was close to $30 at the time and its still just a $5 chip with some support circuitry around it. definitely not worth more than $15 at the very most.

          it is sad that hardware design and manuf has no real future; china will always be able to undercut everyone else’s prices. people don’t even want to go into hardware design and manuf anymore since you rarely will make your investment back once the china guys steal your ideas and run a manuf shift ‘after hours’ to make extra copies of your work for their own sales.

        2. Arduino’s popularity is self-sustaining. The “target demo” is someone with some programming experience and no or little electronics experience. They want the communications and automation that an embedded platform can provide without all of the BS overhead (cost, learning curve, availability, setup) most micro vendors force on customers. So they buy one, blink an LED in the 5 minutes it takes to attach the board and load the demos, and feel accomplished enough to push forward in their learning. They go on to build projects, some of which get public recognition in art installations, Instructables, infosec conferences, etc. Which inspires other potential makers to adopt the platform.

          Same thing for RasPi.

          That’s not to say that there’s no place for alternatives. There are tons of examples out there of projects where an Arduino would be suitable but some other less convenient option is used. But in those cases the cycle of acceptance breaks down quickly. Someone new to embedded won’t get beyond the first 5 minutes wading around MPLAB if they even get that far. Because if the choice of platform is inconsequential in your finished project, why pick the one that takes up more of your time?

          1. That’s exactly how I got into electronics and the Arduino. I was a game programmer who was experienced enough at it that it had become boring (I was doing it for like 25 years), and the Arduino provided me an easy way to learn while seeing results quickly, which kept me motivated to keep learning. Now I’ve reached the point where I’m designing my own boards, but I still base them on the Arduino because there’s lots of libraries available, a vibrant community, and it just makes sense from a business standpoint, for what I’m doing.

      1. Yes, indeed they were all in development before this conflict become widespread public knowledge.

        If anything, this competition has probably prompted both sides to push out products more aggressively, with less testing and software refinement. Arduino SRL’s “Zero Pro” would be a particularly stark example, using a very early & buggy beta version of the software developed by the real Arduino.

  4. Don’t they realise how little their product means when a good developer can out together a bootloader for a platform in a few weeks. Especially easy with stm32 and CMSIS meaning you can recycle your code across ST’s entire range. Someone should start a proper open source common platform microcontroller project. Enough of patents and trademarks and squabbling.

    1. Let me be the first to predict that when/if you put together a platform in a few weeks, which ultimately fails to attract a user base MILLIONS of people and create a huge market of thousands of related products, you’ll conclude it wasn’t any shortcoming of your own work, but merely that you “weren’t in the right place at the right time…”

  5. Why the big push for a editor in the browser? They are usually pretty terrible, in my experience. Everyone it putting code on Github these days anyway. It just seems totally unnecessary. Why would they work on a feature that no one is asking for?

    Anyway, everyone knows real hackers use Emacs…

    M-x make-arduino-project

    1. Facebook, et al have never been profitable, but are buoyed by conspiratorial forces in the economic landscape.

      Cash is available to buy user bases – not good ideas.

  6. It seems to me as if the partnership with Adafruit and the new brand “Genuino” are both strategic responses to the Arduino v Arduino conflict. Although I have not reviewed the case filings or the associated law, I would guess that Massimo’s attorneys told him to expect to lose the trademark. Their litigation strategy is to delay as long as possible so Arduino LLC can build the new brand and manufacturing strength with Adafruit. I am rooting for both Massimo and Lada Ada to succeed on this because they are the awesome!

  7. I’m sorry, I can’t help but ask what the heck Adafruit is doing trying to get in the middle of this. I mean, I see that they’re trying to lend some credibility to the group they want to “win” this battle, but it’s essentially a lot of money-grubbing positioning that will cause people like me to avoid her company on purpose because of her ambitious land grab (and her 500% markup).

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