In a significant development, Arm Holdings, a leading semiconductor and software design company, has acquired a minority stake in Raspberry Pi Ltd, a renowned provider of single-board computers (SBCs).
This strategic investment reinforces a partnership that began in 2008 and aims to support the development of Raspberry Pi’s low-cost, low-power Arm-based platforms geared towards edge computing and IoT applications.
This partnership is a testament to the shared vision of both companies to make computing accessible to all and lower barriers to innovation.
Background of Raspberry Pi and ARM
Raspberry Pi Ltd has been a pioneer in the world of single-board computers, offering affordable, high-performance computing solutions to a wide range of users, including students, enthusiasts, and commercial edge and IoT developers.
Historically, Raspberry Pi’s SBCs have been based exclusively on system-on-chips featuring Arm cores, which have played a crucial role in their product development.
As of 2022, Raspberry Pi had sold over 40 million SBC units, making it a dominant force in the single-board computer market.
This success has been a boon for Arm, as it has not seen significant success in the IoT sector, despite high expectations following its acquisition by Softbank.
Challenges in a Changing Landscape
While the use of Arm technology has been instrumental in Raspberry Pi’s growth, the landscape has been evolving.
Rival single-board computers with RISC-V SoCs have emerged. They pose a potential threat to Raspberry Pi’s dominance and Arm’s standing in emerging markets like edge computing, edge AI, and IoT.
Arm is responding to these challenges by investing in Raspberry Pi Ltd. This capital infusion aims to expedite the development of versatile and competitive solutions.
“Arm and Raspberry Pi share a vision to make computing accessible for all, by lowering barriers to innovation so that anyone, anywhere can learn, experience and create new IoT solutions,”
~Paul Williamson, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Line of Business, Arm.
The Implications of Raspberry Pi and ARM
Arm’s investment in Raspberry Pi Ltd has several implications for the future of edge computing and IoT:
Strengthened Partnership: This investment solidifies the longstanding partnership between Arm and Raspberry Pi, enabling them to collaborate more closely in developing cutting-edge solutions for the IoT and edge computing markets.
Enhanced Competitiveness: With the infusion of capital, Raspberry Pi Ltd can potentially accelerate the development of more competitive products, whether in terms of performance or power efficiency, to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving market.
Developer Community like RISC-V: By investing in Raspberry Pi, ARM is able to gain access to the company’s large and active developer community. This could help ARM to maintain its leadership position in the IoT market.
The Raspberry Pi developer community is one of the largest and most active in the tech industry. Hobbyists, students, professionals, and businesses from all over the world make up this community.
Marketing Impact: While Raspberry Pi has been historically based on Arm architecture, the investment raises questions about the potential for Raspberry Pi to explore RISC-V-based solutions. This could have a significant marketing impact, given the reputation of Raspberry Pi as a flagship product.
Raspberry, ARM and RISC V
The Raspberry Pi Foundation introduced affordable single-board computers called Raspberry Pi. RISC-V is an open-source ISA for making computer processors.
Here are key differences between the two:
Functionality: Raspberry Pi is a complete, functional computer. It is a compact, cost-effective computer the size of a credit card, suitable for various applications such as programming education and home automation systems. RISC-V is an open-source ISA primarily used for designing computer processors.
Processor Variety: Raspberry Pi devices have used a range of processors, including Broadcom chips and ARM-based processors in the past. Anyone interested in creating their own processors can access RISC-V, which is an open-source ISA.
Scope: Raspberry Pi encompasses an entire computer system, including memory, storage, and input/output devices necessary for a fully operational computer. RISC-V is solely an instruction set architecture that defines the possible processor instructions.
What could potentially happen?
Raspberry Pi is a member of RISC-V.
Raspberry Pi Ltd. joined the RISC-V group in January 2019. In October 2023, they released the Raspberry Pi 5 with a unified I/O chip. In November 2023, they received an investment from ARM. These events raise questions about the future of Raspberry Pi’s hardware.
The release of the Raspberry Pi 5 with a unified I/O chip is significant. It makes the platform less reliant on a specific System on Chip (SoC), increasing flexibility.
Alternatively, it could also be seen as a strategic partnership that aims to maintain the collaboration between the two companies while allowing Raspberry Pi to explore diverse architectural options.
If Raspberry Pi were to introduce a RISC-V-based board in the future, it would indeed be a significant shift.
Raspberry Pi’s ARM-based boards have a strong following and are known for their accessibility, contributing to their wide adoption. A switch to RISC-V could bring new possibilities but raise concerns about software compatibility, community support, and developer transitions.
This situation is intriguing and could influence the future of single-board computers and the industry. Technical capabilities, market demands, and community preferences will play a significant role in choosing Raspberry Pi’s architecture.
Arm Holdings’ investment in Raspberry Pi Ltd is a noteworthy development in the world. It showcases their joint dedication to making computing more accessible and tackling market challenges.
With Arm’s backing, Raspberry Pi can push the boundaries of innovation and explore new opportunities in edge computing and IoT.
This partnership is undoubtedly one to watch as it unfolds and shapes the future of accessible computing solutions.