The differentiator for the Raspberry Pi mini computer is price. It’s not the most powerful single-board computer around but it’s not trying to be. The platform-makers’ big idea was to make a device that kids could learn to code on — meaning it needed to be powerful enough to do cool stuff like play BlueRay-quality video, but cheap enough that kids wouldn’t have to share it with the rest of the family. And at $35 for the current model B — and $25 for the forthcoming model A (which has less memory, fewer USB ports and no Ethernet) — it’s already got a disruptive price-tag.
But how low could the Raspberry Pi’s price-tag go in future? Eben Upton, founder of the not-for-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation and the man behind the Pi’s design, says that while he can’t envisage being able to make a $10 or $15 Pi, there might be room to shave a few more dollars off the cost. “I think we’re very close to the minimum possible cost, once you’ve put a board, some connectors, a CPU and a bit of RAM down and allowed for a bit of margin,” he tells TechCrunch. “I could see getting to $20 one day for a very bare-bones product, but not soon, and no lower than that.”
The current $35 Pi costs “somewhere in the $20-$30 range” to manufacture, says Upton, indicating there’s very little wiggle room for squeezing what is already a tiny price-tag that little bit smaller. But even at $35/$25 per Pi the Foundation reckons it’s on course to ship one million units in the first year of sale — an order of magnitude greater than the one thousand Pis they had originally imagined being able to sell. It’s also starting to see interest from developing countries in using the Pi as an affordable general purpose computing device. Add to that, the Foundation this week upped the amount of memory in the model B Pi — to 512MB — without increasing its $35 price-tag. So you’re getting a whole lot more RAM with your Pi for the same amount of money.
The Foundation does not manufacture the Pi itself — it licenses the design to two companies Premier Farnell/Element 14 and RS Components. But Upton says it sets a recommended price in consultation with its partners — thereby keeping the price generally stable but allowing for “some small variation in non-US markets” where distribution costs may be higher.