Microsoft has announced it will be offering the latest version of its desktop OS, Windows 10, free to users of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer later this year — as it seeks to keep pace with, and remain relevant to, developments powering the Internet of Things (IoT).
“We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation of the next wave of computing, and we’re excited to be a part of this community,” said Kevin Dallas, General Manager, Windows IoT Group, writing on Microsoft’s Windows blog.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the next generation of its low-cost microprocessor, the Pi 2, today — adding a quad-core chip and double the memory, while retaining the $35 price-tag — taking the maker-friendly hardware “firmly into the PC space”, as they put it.
That $35 “entry-level PC” price-point is both an opportunity for Microsoft to expand usage of its OS, but also a threat — given the free Linux alternatives Pi users might turn to.
Giving away Windows 10 to makers is one way to try to keep pace with Pi’s push into the PC space, while also generating goodwill, engagement and — Microsoft will be hoping — driving adoption of its services within a developer community that’s expanding as more types of devices become Internet-connected devices.
In his blog, Dallas notes that Microsoft created the Windows Developer Program for IoT last year, and added support for Windows for Intel’s Galileo board — another single-board computer (like the Pi) that’s compatible with Arduino development hardware and software.
Support for Pi, via free access to its developer tools, is the “next step”, he said today, adding: “Raspberry Pi 2 is a surprisingly powerful device that opens up the world of computing and programing to a huge range of people and skill levels.
“We are excited about our work with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and to share that Windows 10 will support Raspberry Pi 2. We will be sharing more details about our Windows 10 plans for IoT in the coming months.”
Redmond announced Windows 10 last month — along with another freebie offer aimed at driving uptake: users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1 are eligible for a free upgrade inside the first year of Windows 10.