2022 is a special year for the Raspberry Pi as it reaches its 10th year of existence and we thought it high time to talk about the future of Raspberry Pi by covering some interview highlights from Eben Upton.
It remains one of the most unusual years in its history too. If you wanted one today, you can’t buy it at official prices unless you flew to Cambridge.
I scoured media interviews that Eben Upton, the CEO of Raspberry Pi Ltd., has given.
Here are some takeaways.
On supply chain issues in 2023
“I think in one year, hopefully, Raspberry Pi will have recovered from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”
“We are living, at the moment, through a period of supply chain disruption which would’ve started at the late part of 2020, early part of 2021.”
“Unfortunately, it has disproportionately affected our ability to supply Raspberry Pis to consumers. So hopefully in a year’s time … if we accomplish one thing over the next 12 months, it would be to rectify that situation.”
“There are always challenges. We will be down volume this year. We sold 7 million Raspberry Pis in 2020, which was a strange year but obviously an unconstrained year. Last year we were constrained by chip supply — sold 7 million again, in an environment where I’d expect to sell 8 or 9, maybe 9 or 10. This year we’ll be down. We’ll be fewer than 7 million.”
“You’ve got a business where demand is very clearly increasing and yet the ability to supply is decreasing. That’s very painful for us.”
Industrial customers first
“On the demand side, we’ve tended to prioritize our industrial customers, because these people are the people who have invested in our platform.”
“Potentially, when you say ‘industrial customers’, it doesn’t mean multinationals, it could mean mom-and-pop organizations that might go bust for want of 50 Raspberry Pis.”
“We tended to prioritize our industrial customers, our small industrial customers. That’s painful for us because we see ourselves as being a hobbyist-focused business.”
Predicted changes in future Raspberry Pis
“I would expect probably a continued increasing in processing power performance in a 5-to-10 year time frame. We need to be able to post some increase in processing power of the device.”
“There are always new standards, there are new graphics standard, there are new video standards. There are new capabilities that people need whether it’s machine learning. Whether it’s image processing. So there’s always new things to do. I think it’s unlikely Raspberry Pi will come to look radically different.”
“We have three form factors for the Raspberry Pi, we have the Compute Module form factor for deep embedded. We have the classic single-board computer which is by far the biggest portion of our volume and then we have the Pi 400 form factor.”
“Purely industrial: Compute Module. Purely consumer: 100-series products. And then the single-board computer which sits in the middle and sells into both markets.”
Two years in, how does Eben view the Pi 400?
“I hope we keep doing Pi 400s that’s been a real surprise to us. That’s been a real surprise to us, I mean it’s a measure of kind of the optimism of us that afflicted us in the early part of 2020.”
“We did an enormous amount of philanthropically-funded work to get Raspberry Pi computers into the hands of disadvantaged young people in the UK who would be sent home to study from home but without any real computing capability.
“Raspberry Pi 400 launched in November of 2020 and I remember in April thinking, man, we’re shipping Raspberry Pi 4 out to these kids and we’re thinking, man. these kids need Pi 400s.”
“Pi 400 have proved its worth in those kinds of applications so I am hoping we can continue doing 100-series products”
“I can’t imagine it really evolving significantly away, though, as a form factor.”
“We’ve gone from being a company which takes other people’s silicon and builds products around them, to a company that makes it own silicon, builds products around them but also sells that silicon to a third-party so I am hoping is that the Pico line of products continues.
“We have seen, partly accelerated by the shortage of other semiconductors, we’ve seen this explosion of this kind of efflorescence of third-party boards built around the RP2040 platform. So what I am hoping is that ecosystem grows.
On the official store in Cambridge and pop-up shops
“It’s nice to have a shop for a variety of reasons. Obviously, it can be a business. It can make money. It’s nice to have a physical environment where you can take journalists to. You’d have a more interesting manifestation of the business than just a cubicle farm.”
“It’s an environment to meet your users … like us that has a large base of tech sophisticated users. It’s somewhere for them to come if they want to interact with us directly, but it also … tends to attract a customers who are not already sold on the Raspberry Pi proposition.”
“People who have heard of it, have some sort of idea of it but may want to talk to somebody before they jump in.”
“It’s fulfilled all those goals with the possible exception of making money. But neither is it desperate. I think over time it’s lost a little tiny bit of money. This year, it’ll be profitable, particularly the pop-ups which are very profitable.”
Future growth for the Raspberry Pi
“We’re super picky about the people we hire. We only hire people who are clever and who are not bad people.”
“We’ve always been interested in how we fund the future growth of the business, whether that’s funding R&D or whether that’s funding changes to our balance sheet.”
“We were a licensing business at the start, it’s our licensees’ websites that we crashed at the start (due to too many people wanting to buy Pis at the same time). We’re much more of a direct business. We make products and sell them for margin.”
“We’ve investigated lots of options for [funding the company]. Obviously, the public markets are one. The public markets are not a friendly place at the moment so this isn’t at the top of the list of things to think about, but never say never.”
Raspberry Pi Pico made in Kenya for the African market
Eben Upton wrote in this blog post that Raspberry Pi Picos are going to be made in Nairobi, Kenya. He said,
“What we found there was a state-of-the-art surface-mount assembly line, which in principle could be used to build almost any Raspberry Pi product. We’re starting with Pico, our smallest, simplest, lowest-cost product, but in due course hope to add others, including Pico W and Zero 2 W,
“As with the reshoring of production to Wales, it’s a happy coincidence of self-interest and a desire to support electronic manufacturing in a country we care deeply about. By bringing parts rather than finished goods into Kenya, we pay lower import duties, and benefit from other government incentives; and by stockpiling components locally, we will be able to react more quickly to the rapidly increasing demand for our products in east Africa.”
Source: Raspberry Pi blog
More RAM for the Zero 2 W?
“More RAM is definitely something we’d like to see as an option on a future successor to Zero 2W, but that’s some way off.”
Source: Eben Upton’s interview
SBC with on-board eMMC?
“A Raspberry Pi SBC with on-board eMMC is a common request: I think it’s fair to say we’d be making one now if we weren’t in a constraint situation on current products, and we’re likely to come back to the idea later in 2023.”
Source: Eben Upton’s interview
Eben Upton also received a honorary fellowship from the National Museum of Computing. The National Museum of Computing’s honorary fellowship recognizes “outstanding contributions towards the history and ongoing development of computing”.