Who Owns Arduino?

Who owns Arduino? We don’t mean metaphorically — we’d say that’s the community of users and developers who’ve all contributed to this amazing hardware/software ecosystem. We mean literally. Whose chips are on the table? Whose money talks? It looks like ARM could have a stake!

The Arduino vs Arduino saga “ended” just under a year ago with an out-of-court settlement that created a private holding company part-owned by both parties in the prior dispute over the trademark. And then, [Banzi] and the original founders bought out [Musto]’s shares and took over. That much is known fact.

The murky thing about privately held companies and out-of-court settlements is that all of the details remain private, so we can only guess from outside. We can speculate, however, that buying out half of the Arduino AG wasn’t cheap, and that even pooling all of their resources together, the original founders just didn’t have the scratch to buy [Musto] out. Or as the Arduino website puts it, “In order to make [t]his a reality, we needed a partner that would provide us with the resources to regain full ownership of Arduino as a company… and Arm graciously agreed to support us to complete the operation.” That, and the rest of the Arduino blog post, sure looks like ARM provided some funds to buy back Arduino.

We reached out to [Massimo Banzi] for clarification and he replied:

“Hi arm did not buy nor invest in arduino. The founders + Fabio Violante still own the company. As I wrote in the blog post we are still independent, open source and cross platform.”

We frankly can’t make sense of these conflicting statements, at least regarding whether ARM did or didn’t contribute monetary resources to the deal. ARM has no press release on the deal as we write this.

Announcing a partnership without details isn’t a new activity for Arduino. Recently we wrote about open questions on the Arduino Foundation. [Banzi] was willing to speak with Hackaday at length about that topic, suggesting more details were just weeks away but we have yet to see follow-through on that.

What we can tell is that [Banzi] and Arduino want us to know that they’re still independent. The Arduino post mentions independence and autonomy eight times in a 428-word post. (The lady doth protest too much?) They’re very concerned that we don’t think that they’ve been snapped up by ARM.

And there’s also good reason to believe that Arduino will remain autonomous even if ARM owns a big stake. ARM sells its intellectual property to a number of silicon manufacturers, who then compete fiercely by offering different peripheral sets and power budgets, and they’re very serious about providing them all with a level playing field.

Anyway, the various ARM chips are nice to work with from a hacker perspective. If the AVR-based UNO was the last non-ARM Arduino board ever made, we’d only shed a tiny little tear. On the other hand, if you’re an MSP430 or PIC fanboy or fangirl, we wouldn’t be holding your breath for a light-blue board sporting your favorite silicon but that is just conjecture.

So we have seemingly conflicting information on the details of this deal, but also promises of openness and transparency. On one hand we’re pleased that ARM is the apparent silent partner, but on the other hand we’re left confused and wanting more. Who owns Arduino?

67 thoughts on “Who Owns Arduino?

        1. Additionally, that was an arduino.org project rather than arduino.cc, during the uneasy period when the band got back together for a few months. It may have nothing to do with Open-V, but how many deals did Federico Musto make that Massimo will feel obliged to continue?

    1. I doubt it was gifted because then Arduino or the founders would have to pay taxes on the gift as it would count as profit. That would be a very expensive gift. A loan makes more sense.

        1. That was the old new Arduino — the Arduino Foundation. Massimo talked about it for 20 sec at Maker Faire just enough to say that they’re “not rushing” it, and having a preliminary planning meeting in Feb 2018.

          This Arduino is strictly for-profit, and at the moment in control of both the hardware and the software — as much as anyone is “in control” of an open-source software project.

      1. Arduino AG only had Fabio and Massimo on the board of directors previously, right? So that means ARM controls half the Arduino board of directors? Not quite the way I’d define independence and autonomy.

      2. Maybe because ATSAMs are cheaper than the beefier AVRs these days. Also the ATSAMs sercom peripheral approach make easy to design and use whatever communication peripheral you want. Another big plus, ATSAMs have an USB bootloader, allowing flash them over USB. So they are (almost) unbrickable.

  1. I have seen this happen to other businesses, in particular in the early days of MySQL, they took on a business partner in the form of another company, while they were small and didn’t have a lawyer to help them. I think MySQL thought the partner was a developer and distributor, and the other company thought they were a co-owner. It worked out OK for the MySQL guys in the end (more than OK, they made a Billion selling the company). It doesn’t look as if it has worked out quite so well for the Arduino founders.

  2. Bah! Who cares? Why would I buy a genuine Arduino anyway (whatever that is these days), when I can get a blue pill for just under $2.00. Makes for a lot of drama and entertainment though for those with nothing better to do.

    1. Right.. please post links to the IDE, other software resources, and technical support provided by the makers of those $2 blue pills.

      Presumably you have all of those. If you were getting them from the Arduino ecosystem, you’d be a parasite bad-mouthing the host organism you’re leeching resources from.

      1. A good IDE (much better than Arduino, although less stupidity proof) would be Eclipse, with the SW4STM32 Plugin installed. In combination with the STM32CubeMX to configure the peripherals and everything the bluepills are perfectly usable.

        The documentation for the STM32 chips is great, too.

        1. Not that it takes much to be better than the Arduino IDE, but… Just tried to download SW4STM32: registration required. STM32CubeMx? Another registration required. Yes, it’s free, but then why bother forcing users to register (over plain HTTP! Not even HTTPS!)? Just let ’em download the required packages (and Arduino IDE is just *one* free dl after a donation-suggesting page).
          That’s the difference that made Arduino a catch-all for newbies: doesn’t require a lot of hops to have something running. It’s efficient? No. Makes the best use of resources? No. But it gets *something* done in minutes, not hours. Even a monkey could use Arduino IDE. Is it the same for Eclipse? I don’t think so. I programmed for more than 30 years and quite like writing makefiles, but gave up with Eclipse every time I tried using it…

          1. PlatformIO has support for a variety of boards, and is available in command-line, Atom, and Eclipse flavors.

            It leaves a bit to be desired in adding support for custom boards, but it’s heaps easier than Arduinos and it’s not locked into a vendor like what ST or TI will recommend you use with their hardware. I don’t use it myself, but I think it’s a better option for Cortex-M development.

            http://platformio.org/

      2. They just have community support for the board in the IDE. I don’t understand why you would use the Arduino IDE to program an ARM chip, though.

        I guess that it technically has rudimentary support for some Cortex-M0+ chips, but it’s crazy far behind. It’s almost easier to use arm-none-eabi-gcc/gdb and standard headers / template projects provided by the chip vendor. The only real difference is the lack of a single ‘build/upload’ button in your IDE, and the ‘digitalWrite’/etc functions have different names.

        I don’t see why ‘ARM’ and ‘Arduino’ should be mentioned in the same breath, really. MBed has a way stronger claim to being the go-to newbie-friendly IDE for Cortex-M chips despite its cloud crap, and ARM also encompasses Cortex-A chips like in Raspberry Pis, plus the esoteric Cortex-R chips.

        1. > They just have community support for the board in the IDE. I don’t understand why you would use the Arduino IDE to program an ARM chip, though.

          There is one good reason to use the Arduino IDE and STM32duino – it lowers the barrier of open source for other people to submit PR’s and generally assist with the project at hand.

          Face it: Arduino installation, library installation, and most things about it are easy. New hardware? Copy it to /hardware . New libs? Copy it to /library . Or use the GUI if its in the repo. If things work, you can’t get much easier than this.

          The fact I can set up shop quickly, with a standard nomenclature for Atmels as well as ARMs is pretty damn nice, to be honest.

          1. You’re right… it is like they’re saying:

            “Damn pirates illegally downloading free open source software! Damn freeloaders!”

            I wonder in what lesser-known countries’ law system would illegitimize downloading of freely distributed open source material.. for example, say, just because someone torrent-downloaded a copy of Debian because their internet was too unstable to download via HTTP or FTP?

          2. While what Massimo did is completely legal, it still pretty messed up. He took the IDE from a student he was advising on his Master’s thesis rebranded it and passed it off as his own.

    1. As far as I understand swiss law….

      Arduino AG was “created” with 1000 registered shares with a value of 1.000 CHF each. And 20 % of these shares have to be real money or assets in kind. So at least 200.000 CHF have to exist somehow.

      That sounds manageble to me.

  3. TI is supporting its boards (MSP430, Stellaris, etc) via Energia which is the Arduino IDE with a different coat of paint. I *think* you could probably import the necessary definitions into the Arduino IDE and have it work, but have not tried it. The ESP support says the needed architecture is already in place. I suspect that in time every MCU vendor will have Arduino support. Lots of the shields for the Arduino are just vendor reference designs modified to conform to the Arduino form factor.

    The Arduino project transformed the MCU development ecosystem by demonstrating that there was a large market for boards for use in one off projects. More importantly, if EE students have been playing with someone’s MCU, they tend to want to keep using it at work. Very bad juju if it’s not your device. I think what we’ll see is all the MCU vendors supporting the Arduino project with donations and large donors getting seats on the board in return. TI is paying for MSP430 support in gcc and friends because of the Arduino project.

    Seems pretty fair all around to me. The board positions don’t offer control, but they guarantee a voice. Putting some ARM engineers on the board can help guarantee that all the vendors using ARM designs have a level playing field and don’t get locked out by another vendor. whether by design or accident.

    Big oil pays out large sums to support industrial consortia doing research of interest to them and to court students for future employment. The consortia listen closely to the desires of the sponsors (at least the ones that survive do), but they don’t control it except by voting with their wallets each year when it comes time to renew. Typical annual bill is $35-50k which is often about what it takes to support a student full time for a year. Multiply that by 6-10 schools and it’s a good bit of money for each company. Multiply by 20 companies and it’s a pretty healthy budget for some professors. The sponsors usually get access to the work a year or two before non-sponsors.

    Supporting Arduino helps the vendors compete on features rather than familiarity. That seems to me a win all the way around.

  4. The chip is probably for sale but it says on the wiki this
    Arduino is an open source computer hardware and software company, project, and user community that designs and manufactures single-board microcontrollers and microcontroller kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control objects in the physical world. The project’s products are distributed as open-source hardware and software, which are licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) or the GNU General Public License (GPL),[1] permitting the manufacture of Arduino boards and software distribution by anyone. Arduino boards are available commercially in preassembled form, or as do-it-yourself kits.
    Now don’t forget that specific chip is the result of a retroactive lawsuit (disclosed) and is also very new coming out The only inside advice I have is to not get wrapped up with buying this item because it has no stable backbone yet will it? Even the courts sometimes lose!

  5. Who really cares.
    It’s open source and these guys bitching and fighting is just them eating up their own profits while everyone else does what they want like nothing is happening.
    If and when Massimo goes in a direction that the community doesn’t adopt and tries to wrestle control, it’ll get forked and carry on regardless without him, them, arduino, whoever, etc.

    It’s about the IDE not the hardware and Massimo knows that more than anyone.

  6. Who cares? Asking who owns Arduino is worse than asking who owns loose, un-bottled air. It’s intangible and inconsequential.

    Don’t believe me?
    What is Arduino?

    It’s a name. But as the great bard once wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Anybody can make an “Arduino”, to be on the up and up they just need to use a different name. There are far more “Arduinos” out there which are not named Arduino and most of them are just as good or better.

    Is it an IDE? Most people probably do use the “official” Arduino ide. Even though.. .most also agree it sucks. But.. one doesn’t have to use the “Arduino” IDE. Of course, any text editor will do but if you want the build process to be truly integrated, as in a real IDE it can be done with Emacs, Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse and I’m sure several more. If you use Atmel Studio you can even have live debugging! I’d wager that it’s a question of when, not if some other IDE options starts becoming popular and steamrolls over the official Arduino one.

    Is it a bootloader? I think the last time I burned a bootloader onto an Atmega chip the code actually came from Adafruit!

    Is it a form factor? Sure but anybody can use that form factor. If they want to. It kind of sucks with that weird spacing though. My first “Arduino” was a “Boarduino”. All it’s pins were in one row, very easy to stick on a breadboard. Much better! Although.. such a long row takes a lot of breadboard. The mini form factor can be even better.

    Is it a chip? I used to think that the true owners of “Arduino” were Atmel (now part of Microchip). After all, you can make an “Arduino” without Arduino but you still have to buy an Atmega! Now however “Arduino” can be made from all sorts of different chip so I guess their days of “owning” Arduino are over.

    Is it a software library? Ok… that one actually makes some sense. But… it’s not like the Arduino company has any kind of monopoly on that library. If they started charging for the use of it or took it in some direction the community dislikes it would be forked and Arduino’s version would be irrelevant almost immediately.

    Is it a community! Yes, that is Arduino’s biggest asset, it’s huge community. Good luck arguing that anyone owns or controls that!

    So the real story…

    Massino. Banzi visited ARM’s executives and sold them what amounted to air that was already passing over their own heads. Then he publicly denies the deal. Well played Mr Banzi., Well played!

    1. One might read my post as an argument against releasing things as open source but consider the following…

      Imagine if things had been done differently, if any part of what we know as Arduino had been more restrictive, if Mr Banzi maintained tight control over Arduino in order to extract more money or be more of a dictator regarding it’s development…

      Arduino would not have been the maker revolution that it was. We would not have seen the scores of people suddenly learning a version of microcontroller development. We would not have seen the previously non-technically minded artists suddenly creating hardware and software. Some “techies” home projects would still have contained Pic’s and BASIC stamps while others would be old-school analog or 555 and similar. Until…. somebody else came along and made something more similar to what Arduino was in our own history.

      Perhaps more people would have used Wiring but not as many because Wiring was too damn expensive. But… someone would have come along with an inexpensive and open platform eventually. We would be writing the same things about it today.

      1. You know, this almost happened. Back in 2010, the published design files were out-of-sync with actual hardware (diecimila, IIRC), and Arduino was talking about not even publishing the next version (Duemilanove.) Worse (from some points of view), they were being pretty fussy about who they would allow to distribute “Arduinos.” This led to some users and some would-be distributors getting pretty annoyed, and a bunch of us went off with the design files that were available, fixed them, added features, and released what were probably the first “derivative” arduino-compatible boards: the NKC Freeduino and the Solar Robotics Freeduino (note: two different designs.) Of course, Arduino made up their minds in a “good” direction, and the distributorship issues were apparently resolved in equitable ways, but it might have been a pretty near thing. (It’s hard to say, without access to the internal thinking of the Arduino team at the time.)

  7. It’s worth mentioning here considering the topic, that there is a project that has just started that intends to keep the software (actually the framework) that Arduino uses objectively open. Just prelims so far, but it has a number of interesting people and organizations committed to helping out.

    http://oryng.org/

    The team includes Hernando Barragán, the gentleman, scholar and designer, who created the Wiring Framework (from his thesis).

    The intention is to document, curate and otherwise make the framework and software available for everyone to use freely. It will encourage software developers to create new development environments, and tools to utilize the framework.

    Please, join the mailing list and let’s see where this goes.

    1. You know, I don’t want to put down Hernando’s contributions, because they WERE important (look at all the “development boards” from a similar time-frame that didn’t come with a “cohesive environment for beginners”, for example.) But the way *I* read between the lines, he was an Art Major that did Wiring as his thesis, and then he went off to do Art Things for the next 8 years or so, without paying any attention to Arduino. In 2012, Arduino was getting big and he popped up and created the Wiring website. Which has had essentially no development in the 5 years since, despite lofty goals.
      The success of Arduino owes a lot more to the continuous development, evangelism, marketing, publishing, sales, hardware re-design, and even Musto’s (?) manufacturing expertise that have happened “post-wiring” than it does to its early origins.

      1. Hey Bill – with all due respect, I don’t know where to start to tell you how offensive, misinformed, and narrow-minded your opinion/comment is.

        I’ll let the architects, designers, and “Art Majors” you’ve offended express their own dislike for your condescending remarks (but maybe they are too busy doing their “Art Things” to give a crap about your opinion).

        So instead, I’ll just state some facts:

        Hernando Barragán is the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Design at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

        The Wiring Project has been around since 2003, and since Hernando graduated with distinction from IDII in 2004, the project has continued at the Universidad de los Andes.

        The Wiring Project website has been up and running since 2005.

        Both Arduino and the Wiring Framework, for what they represent, are way bigger than any one person, or company.

        For more facts about the history of Arduino (and Wiring), please see https://arduinohistory.github.io/

  8. An “optimistic” interpretation of the announcement is that Arduino has somehow partnered with ARM *instead of* a particular silicon vendor (“microchip”, or “nordic”, or “ST”.) This is in contrast to, say, BBC Micro Bit, or Beaglebone, or Raspberry Pi, and somewhat different than their previous “almost exclusively Atmel” behavior.

    1. A similar ‘optimistic’ view might be that arduino feel they have really taken a beating lately on a number of fronts, and have decided to really get to work on some game changing new boards to get one step ahead of the clones, but need somebody like ARM alongside them to help with the development etc.

  9. It doesn’t really matter whether arm has a degree on control on Arduino and it’s products or not so long as Arduino remains open source but & hardware. The RISC-V crowd can always make there own boards based on the RISC-V uCs and offer Arduino library support themselves as was done with the HiFive board.

    Arduino has two main competitors that can eat their lunch: Micropython which is quite powerful and on a platform like the ESP32 is very low cost and versatile, and the plethora of cheap Linux sbcs, especially the ones directed at beginners like the Raspberry Pi 3 & zero w. They make physical computing quite accessible in almost any programming language; not just C/C++, and the built in wifi gives them a ridiculous amount of versatility, especially in IOT projects. A pi zero w costs $10 and ESP32 board can cost $5.90 to $15. The MKR1000 still costs $35.

    Now sure uCs are much better at real-time stuff than SBCs running Linux, but these platforms (Micropython, Arduino,rpi zero w) target hobbyists, experimenters, programmers and many others who care little about real-time and writing bits into registers or custom configurations of the DMAs e.t.c.

    1. You’re forgetting PocketBeagle, featured some time ago here on HAD. It’s got a main CPU for Linux and two aux micros for time-critical tasks. And it costs just $25. One of the biggest drawbacks of the Arduino boards is their high price / features ratio.

  10. I am stunned that anyone would even give a crap about who owns arduino. It’s no more than a stinking Atmel chip on a board. The IDE is horrid, and the worst thing I have ever used. After all these years it remains the same single page joke.
    NO intellisense, no file folder structure. It only use in life if for people that are to lazy to learn coding, and hardware deisgn to blink and led.

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