In the last years we see one silly trend among all silicon vendors.
Pushed by the overall industry low volumes and reading for Arduino, open source and Maker movement boom, some Marketing Managers decided that if they do offer development boards (hardware) for free or on loss this may eventually attract many people from Arduino community to use their platform.
We have seen tons of boards with Arduino connectors and different (put your next MCU vendor device there) Arduino “killer” board to be released.
Selling these from $4 to $10, while their actual cost is $30 or more as these deals go with free shipment.
I guess everyone is dreaming how their “low cost” hardware will attract some portion of the open source community around Arduino and they will start selling millions of chips.
Sooner or later they will face the brutal reallity – their sales will not increase at all, and what they generate is only loss, because everyone who want to build product will choose this looking at the price of the IC not of the development hardware.
What they do not understand is that even if they PAY to people to use their hardware, they will not use it unless there is the easy to use software environment and the TONs of ready made libraries for anything you can think of.
The eclipse of this trend is the fresh announced EUR 1 nonsense board from NXP: http://mbed.org/blog/entry/NXPs-new-LPC800-MAX-board-one-euro/
What a great deal! Development board with free software and free FedEx shipping for EUR 1, what could be better?
Let’s have look on what this LPC800-MAX board offer: we read on the silkscreen “Arduino compatible”
LPC812 in SO20 is put on this board, cheap microcontroller with almost no peripherials: 32K Flash, 4K RAM, GPIO, I2C, UART, nothing else.
So what is Arduino compatible with this chip?
To make it “compatible” complete different and more powerful chip LPC11U35 is add to make USB-SERIAL bridge, then as Arduino have analog inputs, they add I2C ADC to perform these analog read functions and because original Arduino have more GPIOs to make it “compatible” they add GPIO extender again via I2C.
WTF is all this about? This chip is far away from AVR as peripherial, who idiot decided that have to use Arduino buzz word for it?
And what exactly is compatible with Arduino with this board? Does it work with Arduino IDE? Does it run Arduino sketches? Does it have all thousands of Arduino libraries ported?
If we keep reading we will learn that it works with the closed source web based NXP compiler – well done! Far away from open source ideas behind Arduino.
So this is what happens when Marketing Managers tell Engineer what to do. Arduino is safe and soon we are not going to see “killer” board at least if the Arduino team does not decide to make one by themself :)