The Raspberry Pi mini computer just got a RAM upgrade — from 256MB to 512MB — but the $35 price-tag is staying the same. Eben Upton, chip design and founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, said the extra RAM follows frequent suggestions for a more expensive version of the Pi with more RAM for those who want to use the Pi for general computing purposes. But Upton notes the Foundation is “very attached to $35 as our highest price point” — in a recent interview with TC, Upton described price as “our differentiator”.
“There were a lot of boards like Raspberry Pi in the $200 range but not a lot in the $25 to $35 range,” he told me. “You’ve got to see [price] as our differentiator. The big impressive thing we’ve done, as far as I’m concerned, is to make this stuff cheap and available – we’re not making anything that didn’t exist before, but we’re making a thing that previously was very expensive [affordable].”
Upton also said the Foundation is starting to see interest in the Pi from developing countries for use as a general purpose computing device — noting: “[It’s] got an enormous amount of potential to really go and democratise access to information technology in places where maybe people have just bought their first television – emerging middle class in Africa — this is a little additional expense which will connect to your television and help you get more value out of that investment.”
Originally, the Foundation had set out with the idea to build a device for kids to learn to code — thinking they might be able to sell a thousand in the first year. In the event, they sold 100,000 on the first day of sale — and the market for the Pi has been much broader than they initially envisaged. Oracle has demoed Java SE embedded running on a Pi, for instance.
Writing in a blog on the Foundation’s website to announce the RAM upgrade, Upton said from today all Model B Raspberry Pis will ship with 512MB of RAM as standard (Model A refers to a forthcoming $25 version of the Pi that does not include Ethernet).
Here’s his blog post in full
One of the most common suggestions we’ve heard since launch is that we should produce a more expensive “Model C” version of Raspberry Pi with extra RAM. This would be useful for people who want to use the Pi as a general-purpose computer, with multiple large applications running concurrently, and would enable some interesting embedded use cases (particularly using Java) which are slightly too heavyweight to fit comfortably in 256MB.
The downside of this suggestion for us is that we’re very attached to $35 as our highest price point. With this in mind, we’re pleased to announce that from today all Model B Raspberry Pis will ship with 512MB of RAM as standard. If you have an outstanding order with either distributor, you will receive the upgraded device in place of the 256MB version you ordered. Units should start arriving in customers’ hands today, and we will be making a firmware upgrade available in the next couple of days to enable access to the additional memory.
I’d like to thank our partners, RS Components and element14/Premier Farnell, and the suppliers, particularly Samsung, Sony and Broadcom, for all their help in delivering a smooth transition to the 512MB. I’m looking forward to seeing what you all get up to with your shiny new Pis.