Raspberry Pi: What's in it for business?

The £29 micro-computing marvel has finally shipped, and we investigate the potential business benefits that it could deliver in the UK.

Increasing competition

The Pi has the potential to boost the UK technology industry in other ways. It has already demonstrated that there is demand for low-cost and easily-accessible equivalents to the expensive development boards of today. Much of the demand so far has come from end-users eager to use the device as a media-streaming system.

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The success of the Pi has triggered several clone projects. Bulgarian open-source electronics house Olimex has already begun small-scale production of a rival device dubbed the OLINUXINO. This features the iMX233 ARM-based microprocessor and there are plans to produce more powerful devices in the near future. Manufacturers of existing development boards are also looking to re-tool with cheaper designs in the hopes of latching on to the surprising market revealed by the Pi's popularity.

OLINUXINO chipset

The 'OLINUXINO' is shaping up to be a potential competitor

For UK manufacturers, it's a chance to be at the forefront of what is looking increasingly like a revolution, albeit one which has a few roadblocks along the way. The Foundation's original plan to have the Raspberry Pi manufactured in the UK was stymied by two key failings - complex tax restrictions on component imports, and a feeling that UK electronics manufacturers are simply not doing all they can to win new business.

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The government, at the Foundation's request, is currently investigating the tax issue which saw the manufacturing of the Pi lost to Chinese fabrication facilities. The issues in question are long and complex, they boil down to this. Current import laws make it expensive to import components for assembly in the UK. It is cheaper to have the same components assembled into a finished product abroad before importing them to the UK for sale.

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