31415926 (That’s Roughly Π Times 10 Million Raspberries)

The Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton has announced that their ten millionth eponymous single-board computer has been sold since their launch back in February 2012. It’s an impressive achievement, especially so since their original sales expectations were for a modest ten thousand. For those of us who watched the RS and Farnell websites crumble under the strain of so many would-be purchasers on that leap day morning four and a half years ago their rapidly exceeding that forecast came as no surprise, but still, it’s worth a moment’s consideration. They passed the Sinclair ZX Spectrum’s British record of 5m computers sold back in February 2015, leaving behind the Pi’s BBC Micro spiritual ancestor on 1.5m sold long before that.

Critics of the Pi will point out that its various versions have rarely been the most powerful small single board computer on the market, or even at times the cheapest. They will also point to the closed-source nature of the Broadcom binary blob that underpins Pi operating systems, and even the sometimes unpredictable nature of the Pi Foundation with respect to its community, product availability and launches. But given that the Pi Foundation’s focus is not on our side of the community but on using the boards as a tool to introduce young people to computing, it’s fair to say that they’ve done a pretty good job of ensuring that a youngster can now get their hands on a useful and easily programmable computer much more easily than at any time in the past.

Would we be in the same position of being able to buy a capable Linux computer for near-pocket-money prices had the Raspberry Pi not been released? Probably so, in fact certainly so. The hardware required to deliver these products has inevitably fallen into a more affordable price bracket, and we would certainly have plenty of boards at our fingertips. They would probably have Allwinner or maybe Mediatek processors rather than the Pi’s Broadcom part, but they would be very likely to deliver equivalent performance at a similar cost. Where the Raspberry Pi’s continued success has come from then has not necessarily been from its hardware but from its community and software. The reliability and ease of use delivered by the Raspbian Linux distribution that Just Works for the parent putting a Pi in front of their child, and the wealth of expert information on the Raspberry Pi forums to get them through any Pi-related troubles are what has given the Pi these sales figures. The boards themselves are almost incidental, almost any hardware paired with that level of background information would likely have met with similar success. Comparing the Pi software experience with for example one of their most capable competitors, it’s obvious that the software is what makes the difference.

It’s likely that Raspberry Pi sales will continue to climb, and in years to come we’ll no doubt be reporting on fresh milestones on ever more powerful revisions of their product. But it’s also likely that their competition will up their software game and their position in the hearts and minds of single board computer users might be usurped by a better offering. If this increased competition in the single board computer market delivers better boards with more for the hardware developer community, then we’re all for it.

57 thoughts on “31415926 (That’s Roughly Π Times 10 Million Raspberries)

  1. So 1 million fat middle-aged nerds in the USA and the UK now have beowulf clusters in their mother’s basement which they use to generate bitcoin.

    Meanwhile the Third World is still waiting for the the scales of economy thing to to kick in….

      1. The pi is cool but it is hardly bringing the joys of embedded Linux to the masses. It is at best bringing the joys of embedded linux to nerds. I would love to see this go out more schools and to kids like the old C64 but it just is not.

    1. I cant help out with the PI’s But I have sent over 50 esp6288’s to the mormons for the third world countries.
      They do not do this on a normal bases but I talk to the missionaries.
      I am not a active one But I know what they can do. And I do my best.
      Maybe you should as well. insted of talking about it. I do not give money I give Items and only to people that I know will help. It takes a little more leg work But I now know it will not be wasted like money…

    2. You don’t follow the foundations blog do you. There are many projects setting up IT departments in remote 3rd world countries. The Pi is also used a lot in these countries to give a local wifi library for people to help with education and running their farms for example.

      The original goal was to create a learning platform for UK schools. The foundation has created a curriculum that can be taught in schools. The movement they created change government policy and massive improved IT education.

      Link slap…

    3. Far more than you think. Most of my friends children have them at home and they all have used them at school. I often quiz them to see if it is getting in the schools and is working, it is. Not unusual to now see children dragging mum into Maplin to get something for the Rpi. A few years ago it was dad dragging the kids in.

      Open your eyes, change is happening, the future is bright, we have shaken of the ‘dumb it down’ culture in favour of empowering and teaching.

      1. My eyes have been open. But I have yet to see them enter k-12 schools in the area. I don’t know any kids that have a real interest in them. In fact most of the people I know that have one just let it sit around collecting dust. The only local retailer for 100+ miles that sold anything Raspberry Pi related went out of business and I can assure you kids where not bringing there parents in.

        It might be a hit in the UK where the government has cooperated extensively. But in the US the Raspberry Pi is predominantly being used by the adult hobbyist.

    4. The problem is, the 3rd world don’t want it, they’d rather have a 15 year old Macbook. We can’t tell them what they should want, they want what consumers in the 1st world get. It’s like, “Here, have a poverty computer, because you are poor and this will mark you as such.”

      An example of this in the past is that areas of Africa that had abundant native foodstuffs, there are people starving now, because all that was “poverty food” so they tore it all out to plant western crops that do not thrive.

      1. Part of the food shortage is because of war pushing people off their land and misguided assistance in helping them increase their crop yields by modernizing their farming practices which also meant using food crops from the west and east asia as these were well understood with those methods.
        It just turned out things like corn and rice are unsuitable for hot dry the climate and the land becomes inarable after a few years of intense irrigation from build up of salts.
        Though a Raspberry pi V3 is probably going to be faster than a 15 year old mac and use a fraction of the power.

          1. Most of the world’s famines of the past 150 years have been the result of politics. (Irish potato famine, Stalin starving the Ukraine, Ethiopia, Biafra, Mao’s Great Leap Forward).

    5. I remember as a kid 30+ years ago watching starving “third world” people begging with their hands out. Here we are today and nothing has changed. They are still ass backwards idiots who have learned nothing. Aids is rampant, voodoo is still practised, publicly killing “witches” (this one surprised me) and university professors are routinely killed for being “smart”.

      In 30 years nothing has improved, hell I would argue it’s worse, and I’m suppose to accept “blame” for this because I am (thanks to trendy racism) an evil “cis white male”.

      You, sir, are a clown and a cliche. Your empty words mean nothing to me and I’m guessing very, very few other people here.

      1. I have visited “third world” countries a bit and I found that talking to people gave me a much better understanding of the local situation, problems and feasible solutions than just watching. I also found, over the years, that things were improving.
        Getting back to the subject, I have three RasPis and , like the Arduino, I would not be able to use them were it not for the huge amount of work done by others which can be used, adapted and (my personal ambition) improved for different applications. The community knowledge base is the key for this sort of gear, that and the low cost.

    6. Who cares how much we weight or if we actually like our Mothers. You clearly have a small mind and are unable to look past your bigoted upbringing. “Third world country’s” is yet another term used to keep people down, just another mental roadblock for the people to overcome much like being picked up for there weight.

  2. I’d like to see an article on HaD about how some people get to manufacture they own RPi variaton (you know like banana pi etc…) because it doesn’t seem easy to get your hands on broadcom cpus for example.

        1. That was the ODROID-W. The RPi foundation were afraid that it would kill their sales, so they told Broadcom to stop supplying Hardkernel (the maker of ODROID) with chips. That model was basically a Pi Zero two years before it was released.

  3. I left a snarky (but true) comment questioning how many of these units actually got into the hands of children, and pointing out that despite the huge numbers the scales of economy benefits have not flowed on to the third world (where I have family BTW!). But it seems to have been censored. So does the true hurt that bad, or is this “Anti sarcasm week”?

    1. Hopefully the moderators removed your snarky comment. Like most, I come here to read intelligent and thoughtful (and some times witty) post.

      I don’t like crap in my cereal and I thank good moderators keeping comments relatively clean.

    2. Worry not, take off your tinfoil hat and be happy. I have a feeling I may have just released it from the spam queue, where it has sat overnight. We Brits have to sleep, and can’t check the comment queues while doing so. As others have said, we don’t censor comments.

      As to why it was in the spam queue, no idea. WordPress’s filters are a law unto themselves.

      1. The filter on Cute Overload used to land posts in the “mod lounge” seemingly for using the word “puppy,” among other topical words. The site developed its own cutesy leet speak entirely around beating that dumb filter.

        I’d love to read a paper about how it works.

  4. Well, the Pi Zero is now at the most ridiculous price imaginable: $0.99 at the local Microcenters in the US!

    I don’t think anyone will argue that that is not the cheapest single board computer, for a long time!

      1. Humorous that a UK designed product is cheaper in the US than the UK.
        Well it’s more tragic and TBH we in the UK have come to expect such things.

        Anyway congrats. Right place, right time, right tools, right critical mass.
        A lot of work done well and right but also a lot of luck being in the right position at the right time with good marketing/PR and then a community with embraced it with open arms.
        There is arguably better hardware out there but these boards have longevity and for people tinkering that’s important. In this time of latest and greatest changing on a weekly basis having stability for programming is very important and that’s where IMHO the best job has been done.

    1. Of course, my local Microcenter closed a few years ago, and they don’t seem to have the Pi Zero on their web store at any price, just cases and accessories. Does anybody actually sell the Pi Zero online and have any in stock?

  5. Death by a thousand cuts is still fatal…
    The one thing that baffles me is that Hardkernel seems to have the makings of an outstanding single-board computer in its Odroid C2, as covered here at HaD on March 16, ’16 by Jenny List.
    Why are they (or, as you Brits would say, ‘Why is it…’) seemingly doing nothing to fix all the C2’s nagging little problems which are keeping it from becoming a real competitor to the RPi?

    1. Well the RPi 3 is arguably better supported by software (i.e. the Linux kernel) than the C2 but that doesn’t mean it is supported very well at all. There is still no stable 64bit kernel that can make use of the processor because Broadcom is hiding support for the GPU in it’s ivory tower.
      Competitors like Allwinner and Rockchip are doing even worse. I read that there has been some decent effort recently put into getting a lot of Allwinner chips into the mainline Kernel but there is still a lot to do. Same is true for Amlogic. Afaik you can get an AARCH64 Kernel for the Odroid which you can not for the RPi3. Still I bought an RPi3 recently because I think long term support will be better than the support for the C2.
      Yes, in the end it all boils down to software but there is not much that Hardkernel could do here. They really are the smallest fish in the pond. How long does it take to sell ten million TV boxes with Amlogic chips? Probably something like three months or so. Amlogic won’t care for the few ten thousands C2s that some nerds want to run the latest Linux on.

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