The Raspberry Pi 3 launched this morning, adding a 64-bit processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 to an already beloved blend. What’s more, it only costs £30. I spoke to Claire Doyle, the global head of Raspberry Pi and element14, and Richard Curtin, element14’s director of strategic alliances, to learn about where the Pi came from, and where it could be going.
“Pi was launched to get kids programming,” said Doyle. “That was the whole purpose, and it’s remained true to the Pi foundation and Pi trading strategy, despite the growth we’ve seen. The Raspberry Pi foundation is a charity. It’s putting single board computing in the hands of kids. Not only that, but it’s also providing content for teachers, so that remains core to the strategy. It’s stayed very true to the core, but what’s really exciting is these other areas of the business have grown and exploded.” Though education is still at the top of the agenda, it’s clear that Pi 3 is expected to really boost the industrial segment in the near future.
So, hardware aside, what’s new for the project? “I don’t think there’s any area we shouldn’t go into, but what we’ve got to try to stay pure to is accessibility,” said Curtin. “We need to get Pi everywhere and make sure the community is at the forefront of everything we do, because without the community, the ecosystem would never come to life."
Both Doyle and Curtin are certain that wearables present a massive opportunity for Pi, though what that exactly means is open to interpretation. Some of the product's core strengths are affordability and flexibility, and low prices and greater customisation options are certainly two ways forward for the struggling smartwatch industry.
It's not all about the consumer path, however. “I think there are new areas with the new Pi 3, which could open the doors for something different," said Curtin. "We’re going to work with big giants: Microsoft, IBM and Amazon Web Services. They want to deploy the Pi 3 as a mechanism to tempt potential customers into experiencing their cloud services through a device that’s simple, easy to use and stripped back enough that those users would be able to add to and evolve their designs and ideas through cloud applications. We’ve never done that before. They want to use Pi as an enabler for their visions too. That’s a differentiator for this year.”
The third-gen product is frighteningly impressive. Though it costs the same amount as a modest weekly shop, it’s essentially a fully fledged computer. Was that the end-game? “Going right back to the early days of the first Pi, Raspberry Pi Trading has always had a vision of getting to Pi 3,” said Curtin. “They’ve decided to do their iterations of the Pi in increments, and now they’ve got to Pi 3, I think they’ve now got a chance to sit back. They’ve got to the vision they were aiming for and they have more time now. The board has a longer life-cycle because of the connectivity.”
However, Curtin is adamant that there’s still plenty more to do. “So I think now, we’ve got at least 18 months of stable Pi activity before we move onto the next version, whatever that might be. I would say, knowing the Raspberry Pi Trading guys, that they’re already thinking about the next step. I believe they’ve got some time to really think about where to go next.
“The Pi 3 is a fully fledged computer, however, there’s a lot more we can add to it. We’ve already launched a display, with a camera, the PiSense hat. As soon as you add an accessory, it has a 'spider' effect. I don’t see Pi 3 as an end-game. I see Pi 3 as an enabler for the ecosystem to grow much more rapidly.”