Do you own a LightBlue Bean or Bean+ from Punch Through? If you don’t have one now, you probably never will, as the company has recently announced they’re no longer selling or supporting the Bluetooth Low Energy microcontrollers. The company says that after selling more than 100,000 Bean devices, the challenge of keeping up with a constantly evolving software ecosystem became too difficult, and they are instead going to focus their efforts on advising other companies on how to best develop Bluetooth products.
Frankly, that sounds a bit like getting advice on how to build a fully armed and operational battle station from the Empire, but who are we to judge. While the Bean family of devices clearly wasn’t able to go the distance, Punch Through at least got them out the door and supported them for longer than many might have expected given the increased competition in the BLE market. It’s not hard to do the math: the LightBlue Bean retailed for around $35 USD, and today you can get a BLE-capable ESP32 for five bucks.
So what happens to all those Beans out in the wild? Normally, the parent company dropping support for a microcontroller wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this time around we have the “Bean Loader” to contend with. This piece of software is used to push code to the device over Bluetooth, and it’s possible that the constant march of operating system upgrades (especially on mobile devices) will eventually break it. Long story short, there’s nothing to worry about in the short term. But down the road, these Beans might be baked.
Luckily, Punch Through did provide some pretty extensive documentation for the Beans. If there’s significant demand, we imagine the community will do their best to take over development of whatever ancillary software is required to keep the hardware usable for the foreseeable future. Speaking of which, the schematics and PCB layouts for both the Bean and Bean+ have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that somebody else might put them back into production.
[Thanks to Chris for the tip.]