What happens when the Engineers listen to the Marketing Managers (or why Arduino can’t be killed by all these new Arduino “killer” boards)?


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 🙂

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Max
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:21:06

    True enough. On the other hand, I really think these guys have a chance… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/microduino/microduino-arduino-in-your-pocket-small-stackable


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:40:13

      microduino is OK as it uses same ATMega328 and can run same code as Arduino, my point was for these non-AVR microcontroller boards with just Arduino connectors on them and zero software compatibility


  2. bert
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:35:38

    I LOL’d

    The real Arduino killer would be cheap ARM SOC/SOM especially with a PoP memory


  3. funlw65
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 21:19:40

    Well, I know at least one “Sanguino killer” board which is doing just fine.

    Is hard these days to find a Sanguino, but better have a full ATmega644P development board, successfully used in the Polish Universities and around the world.


  4. kids
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 08:56:37

    maybe you kids should just learn to program. the embedded professional community is doing fine without your buzzwords


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 11, 2013 @ 09:02:36

      there is nothing wrong that the kids have now tool which allow them to take easy the first steps
      the professional community only benefits if more and more people outside electronics are interested to learn and try, and why not some of them to become professionals later if want to dig deeper and see how thing works


  5. David
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 11:33:22

    The problem is the hidden cost of the development tools. ATMEL got this a long time ago when they stopped demanding money for the likes of AVR Studio. AVR Studio isn’t open-source, but it does what you need without restricting you or getting in your way. The final piece of the puzzle came when ATMEL introduced the AVR Dragon programmer/debugger, then a bit later on removed the dumb firmware memory restrictions. Now ATMEL’s parts are very popular with everyone, from the pioneering hobbyist to the most experienced embedded engineer. Arguably, Arduino would have never started with an AVR without ATMEL’s zero cost dev tools and low cost but very powerfully Dragon programmer/debugger. Microchip etc. don’t understand this process at all.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 12:05:03

      I also do wonder if Microchip realizes what epic fail of theirs was to try to sell GCC for MIPS, what I read is that Arduino team first evaluated PICs for their platform then decided to move to AVR because of AVR-GCC
      with bootloader it doesn’ t matter if there is programmer hardware or not
      even now they sell GCC with switched ON optimizations and “evaluation” version with switched OFF optimization, this is joke for their customers
      big marketing fail, I doubt the money they got from c32 justify the opportunities they have missed


  6. Ceri
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 11:57:26

    IMHO, the main reason why so many developers are pitching for dweeno form factor, is the abundance of the shields, the one like the look of is :


    but the reason for the ADDITIONAL stuff in the LPC800 board, is just an example of what can be achieved ! Don’t forget this micro is the first in the MBED family to be available for around 70 pence, in single parts.

    and also an 8 pin DIP – YES DIP for 50 pence !!

    Long live MBED, and its derivatives.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 12:07:01

      @Ceri you do not see the point in my post do you? making LPCxxx in Arduino form factor means nothing.
      Where is my library if I want to connect Servo shield? Write one myself? no I just will buy Arduino and make my project for no time instead to use this super duper arduino “killer” which came without any software support 🙂


      • Ceri
        Sep 12, 2013 @ 14:17:40

        There are a significant amount of library’s in MBED, and an increasing amount of device database modules, Never the less, I think MBED is aimed at the next level of expertise,

      • OLIMEX Ltd
        Sep 12, 2013 @ 14:30:15

        sorry, I never though to evaluate what mbed offers due to the hidden / closed source compiler and development environment
        I doubt one would consider to do anything seriously if the development tools are behind his control

  7. xor
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 19:04:14

    Please educate yourself about mbed before making inaccurate statements.

    The Mbed compiler is simply an IDE for a standard ARM compiler. You can use other compilers if you want. It even has an export function which creates project files for several toolchains. There is nothing mysterious or ‘hidden’ about it.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 19:11:17

      sorry if I said something inaccurate, when I check mbed it was web based ajax online IDE I had to write the code then compile it on the web and receive back HEX which to load to the microcontroller, is there stand alone and not restricted mbed IDE/compiler which I can download and use under Linux?


      • xor
        Sep 13, 2013 @ 15:56:51

        You can of course use any compatible compiler for the target. There is no bootloader or anything like that. You are writing c/c++ directly against the target.

        As you have such a strong desire to ‘have control’ over the toolchain then using your own toolchain shouldn’t be a problem for you.

  8. Tom
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 13:17:01

    The only reason that Arduino is so successful is that the hobbyists that were using obsolete Atmel microcontrollers then are still using the same obsolete Atmel stuff now. If they were just willing to see and learn how superior the low cost Cortex-M devices that are available everywhere are, they would not even think about using Atmega parts anymore. Even Atmel and Arduino know this.

    The controller used in this ‘nonsense board’ is far superior to the Atmega32, although you go through great lengths to ‘prove’ otherwise. The Atmega328 on the simplest Arduino board is 8bit, slower and probably 3 times more expensive than the one used on this board.

    To be honest, i don’t understand why you even try to ‘defend’ the Arduino, when you guys yourself sell a board ,the Olimexino, which is so much more than Arduino will ever be?

    FYI, NXP is one of the most successful uP manufacturers because of their outstanding price/performance hardware.( and according to their website had a $4.36 billion net revenue in 2012, which is by all means not bad.) I would hardly call them idiots.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Sep 13, 2013 @ 13:35:11

      please tell me what is so superior of this LPC812 controller with just GPIOs, UART and I2C?

      There are tons of Chinese 8051 derivates with the same SOIC package and same capabilities which you can buy for $0.20-$0.25

      If I have to write every software from scratch I would not choose LPC812 for sure,

      With my post I do not say NXP is successful or not, releasing boards like this one just make them look like idiots and show that they have no idea what is Arduino and why it is so successful.

      Olimexino is hardware improved Arduino, but it runs Arduino sketches and works with Arduino IDE, i.e. all work done by the thousands of contributors in Arduino works on Olimexino.


    • phuong
      Sep 13, 2013 @ 17:25:41

      Agree with you.


  9. Tom
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 15:28:50

    If this board has the same interfaces as Arduino it *is* compatible with all that work. Perhaps not the IDE (don’t know if that is the case or not), but i really doubt if that would be a showstopper: With the help of the CMSIS libraries and the support libraries you get for free with these devices getting these devices to run is a breeze.

    And really, are you now suggesting that a 8051 based device is technically superior to this one? Or are you just comparing prices now?

    I’m sorry but calling someone/people idiots because they make a low cost development board with a device you deem inferior is not speaking for you.


  10. Paul Staron
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 23:09:15

    A lot of opinions which always makes good discussion. A well educated and talented programmer will select a cpu and compiler that fits his exact processing requirements and utilise exacting peripherals. There is not one embedded processor that fits the bill for everyone and there never will be.
    When I entered this world I was not sure if I had my monitor upside down, every IDE/compiler I tried looked much the same, great if you know what you are doing but totally unusable for a beginner. I tried Arduino with very little success and nearly gave up until I came across MBED. At the time it was only supporting the MBED LPC1768 module however I found I could produce code for what I wanted to do without any trouble at all. But I still needed low power, low pin count MCU’s such as the ATMega328. This year MBED added the Freescale chip and made the library’s open source and recently added further chips that work on the MBED online IDE/compiler so now I have plenty of MCU options to suit whatever I need. I don’t think I could expect any more than this without putting my hand in my pocket. It’s not perfect and not everyones choice. But thats the point there is plenty of choice and it’s up to hardware/software developers to be capable enough to produce product that is attractive to remain in business. Like it or not Its called competition.
    Now with the open source MBED libraries and export facilities, I can just about work out how to port my MBED code with libraries into the offline Code Red IDE and successfully program my LPCXpresso board.

    Acorn Computers (the founder company of ARM) lost out in the Personal Computer business back in the eighties, but look at them now. How many MCU producers have ARM based cores? I think the answer to the future direction for MCU’s architecture is there.
    I will say that if the Aruduino IDE was as user friendly as MBED, I would have continued with this platform.
    I wonder who is the idiot here that missed this one.
    The ‘winner’ will ALWAYS be the one that is simpler, cheaper and easier to use. It’s human nature to compromise to be lazy.


  11. Michael Shimniok
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 23:23:26

    Mentioned above: mbed sdk is open source, now.

    There’s a large community, forums, and lots of objects that are easier to find (all on one site via search) and incorporate (integrated into IDE) in your code with Doxygen and typically well-documented APIs.

    The mbed IDE offers version control and is a bit more like a ‘real’ IDE than Arduino’s Processing-derived sketch environment.

    Or you can use CodeRed (Eclipse with gcc underpinnings) which unfortunately is code size limited, but that hardly matters for a chip with 16k flash. 🙂

    Agree the LPC812, lacking some basic peripherals and adding others (UART) can’t directly replace many ATmegas. But clearly a main goal of this board is to sell people on the chip as an 8-bit killer.


    • SP
      Jun 26, 2014 @ 12:41:15

      Hello Michael

      Here i purchased Seeeduino-Arch-Pro:LPC1768 & my aim is to get some suitable IDE which is having BSP support for it so that i can build / develop my C application…but am confused which one to use .?

      And once i made my sample application run then i wanted to integrate some RTOS with the BSP and my Application. Is that freeRTOS suitable for that ?



      • shimniok
        Jun 26, 2014 @ 21:12:09

        @SP wrote: “Here i purchased Seeeduino-Arch-Pro:LPC1768 & my aim is to get some suitable IDE which is having BSP support for it so that i can build / develop my C application…but am confused which one to use .?”

        The Seeeduino-Arch-Pro:LPC1768 is now supported by the mbed SDK. Not sure what BSP stands for in this context. You can do offline compile with mbed SDK pretty easily now. Start the program in online compiler, then export it for the toolchain you’re using.

        “And once i made my sample application run then i wanted to integrate some RTOS with the BSP and my Application. Is that freeRTOS suitable for that ?”

        There’s also an RTOS available with the mbed SDK. I haven’t played with it.

  12. Szymen
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 02:05:23

    Let me see… Maybe it is faster, maybe more power efficient, but it doesn’t matter, when you don’t have anything to work with. Where are my peripherals? Few GPIO, I2C and UART seems like a joke. And when talk about UART. This UART is a joke. With baudrate over 51200 it hangs whole CPU, while Arduinos Atmega works well with over 1000000 (yup, one million) baud. And what to do with just few digital IO? Blink an led? When you’d like to do something more you have to run I2C bus. And it’s as slow as UART on this chip. And you have to pay twice of a price of atmega for I2C ADC, more pins, maybe PWM (or DAC if you are rich 😉 ). And you loose your power efficiency. And speed of course.
    If I’d like to have ARM speed, I’d rather use some atmel microcontrollers. All needed peripherals, bunch of GPIO, everything smooth and beautiful for below 10$. Only disadvantage is non-hobbyist-friendly package. But have picopower – even less power than NXP’s uC.

    So I’d choose LPC812 only if I had just few pennies to blink a led in fancy, ARM way (In the other case I’d use NE555, cheaper and simpler). To make something more advanced I’d use some atmega, and for bigger projects some atmels ARM’s.

    That’s my opinion. And yup, on this board, from arduino is only pinout.


  13. Petr
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 10:47:43

    Hi, although I agree with OT, interesting on this LPC-800 for me was the their “io-switch matrix” – at first sight… Quite similar thing I saw on Cypress PSoC5. Is there somebody who knows about more similar SoC chips where I can almost freely route signals to/from chip to package pins??

    (Sure, this all to make as trivial as possible tiny PCB in final product after prototyping using shields etc – so, here still the common UNO R3 layout is OK.)


  14. clinq
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 09:29:20

    Even worse if engineers try to do marketing, like this post. LOL

    I see old people resist admitting new better technologies and refuse learning or even taking a look at them: the close-sourced online only mbed compiler claim made by the OP is a very good example.

    ARM MCUs are gradually dominating the MCU market, and Arduino team really sucks at ARM-based boards, Oh, and Ateml sucks there too.


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