Who fears from the competition? RPi Foundation pressed Broadcom to stop selling BCM2835 to competing projects.


On July 29th I blogged about the Raspberry Pi Clones which now exist and the new Odroid project which actually makes better hack friendly module based on BCM2835 including better power supply, LiPo battery support etc features.

This is pure example that no matter if your project is open or closed hardware it could be cloned if there is enough interest to do so.

Also I made speculations that due to the bad financial condition which Broadcom faces due to the Chinese SOC competitors they start selling their BCM2835 to anyone with money.

Well this must have upset RPi Foundation a lot and they should have start to pess Broadcom about stop selling the BCM2835 to others than RPi.

Today Odroid guys wrote on their G+ account: “We have to stop ODROID-W project soon since Broadcom will not supply the SoC to Hardkernel anymore.
When the first trial batch is sold out, you can’t buy the ODROID-W anymore. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Atanas Palavrov
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 08:39:59

    Well … if this is the real reason it is a silly one … competition is a good thing, it keeps everyone busy to improve their products …


  2. Kyle Manna
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 08:41:32

    I find it hard to believe it had anything to do with RPi Foundation. I bet it has more to do with supply chain / logistics / manufacturing licenses….


  3. Alexander W. Janssen
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 10:32:23

    Do you have any references to back your claim? This looks a lot like speculation and you’d better address this to Broadcom first.


  4. David
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 15:16:32

    I don’t see it being worth much (if anything) to the RPi Fdn to be strong-arming Broadcom like this. I bet this has a lot more to do with the Sales Prevention Team (likely) full of of Elite MBA’s and Lawyers at Broadcom. IMHO Broadcom has one of the worst reputations for making buying stuff from them easy. RPi might be one exception to that, and it may have something to do with some close personal relationships – not a sensible sales policy plan on the part of Broadcom.

    Have you contacted the Odroid folks to ask them why they think they can’t buy parts from Broadcom? I think their take on this is mandatory before connecting the dots prematurely and assuming this is the result of the RPi folks.


    • Ian Stirling
      Aug 30, 2014 @ 14:19:36

      Eben Christopher Upton is a Technical Director and ASIC architect for Broadcom. He is also a founder and former trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and now CEO of the Raspberry PI trading company. He is also responsible for the overall software and hardware architecture of the Raspberry Pi device’

      Yeah – I can’t see what possible connection there could be there.


  5. Michael Horne
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 16:31:06

    Well, apparently, all Odroid have said is that Broadcom won’t sell them the chips. Perhaps you should check the facts before just assuming it had something to do with the RPF and spreading unsubstantiated rumour.


  6. jamesnahughes
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 16:49:24

    The BCM2835 is sold to quite a few other companies, not just the RPF….why Brcm won’t sell to ODROID is probably down to volume and consequent lack of funds from sales to pay the support costs. That’s a guess though.


  7. Volker Hett
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 17:17:00

    I’m not a fan of the BCM2835, but when I need a recent kernel and 1080p video support, as with the digital signage system I built for an exhibition, then it is the best choice.


  8. Stefan H.
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 19:25:41

    Really bad. Because it was not a stupid clone but a completely new form factor between standart RPI and the RPI compute module. Perfectly usable for mobile applications where you ant to embed RPI on your own PCB, without using the far more complicated compute module. I’ve been planning to use it on a future robot project.

    I don’t know wheter RPI Foundation used its personal relationships with Broadcom to stop this project. Many people on the forum were really annoyed. But if someone finds a prove for this, i’ll sell my RPIs and continue my projects with Beagle Bone (more powerfull and completely open source – better anyway) and ODROID Exynos.


    • Lloyd Seaton
      Aug 29, 2014 @ 14:01:00

      Agreed. ODROID-W is an admirable design and I shall lament its premature demise. Perhaps the RasPi Foundation will be smart enough to look closely at the ODROID-W when the are designing RasPi 2 or even Model B++. But I think it is important to note that ODROID-W was designed before the announcement of RasPi B+ and, in that context, ODROID-W was quite different and very competitive with RasPi A, RasPi B and Compute Module in many respects but when RasPi B+ came out at about the same time as ODROID-W, it took some of the wind out of ODROID-W sails (and sales prospects) in a number of respects:
      1) The expanded 40-pin GPIO header went beyond ODROID-W capability
      2) The Model B+ form factor improvements nullified a serious Model B problem
      3) The RasPi’s soon-to-be-revealed HAT expansion strategy wrong-footed the ODROID-W commitment to the 26-pin RasPi header.
      The erosion of ODROID-W sales prospects may well have degraded Harkernel’s ability to negotiate a bulk purchase of BCM2835 SoCs.


  9. digitelect
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 19:51:29

    I think, that RPI foundation pressed Broadcom, since they can do this. Low price is possible only for big amount of customers. Otherwise they can not produce RPi on this price.

    So, some RPI founders (not RPI Foundation) start lowRISC project. This is open-hardware processor:
    So, I think that situation is as follow. If Broadcom not stop selling BCM2835 to others, then RPi will change (in near future) microprocessor with lowRISC.
    Everything is business, noting related to open-source spirit. How to sell something cheap and really open-source – this is impossible.


  10. Daniel Bull
    Aug 28, 2014 @ 20:54:15

    I think if the Foundation are really innocent they should be pressing Broadcom to make an official statement explaining which of their policies it is which is preventing HardKernel from purchasing more chips. As we have heard, Broadcom do seem to have some very odd policies and it could easily be one of those rather than anything to do with the Foundation. And in the same way Broadcom should be doing the right thing and making the statement to protect their customer from these accusations.

    My personal best guess is Broadcom probably have some crazy minimum order policy which HardKernel can’t meet so HardKernel were purchasing the chips via a 3rd party. What’s probably happened now is the third parties supply has dried up and Broadcom won’t let HardKernel order any more directly because they don’t meet the minimum order. The alternative scenario is a bit more petty and would be that Broadcom found out that the 3rd party were reselling their chips and put a stop to it. This could have been prompted by a complaint from the Foundation but there certainly isn’t any evidence of that.

    Either way we currently just don’t know which really sucks, and if Broadcom don’t do the right thing and tell us their side of the story it could cause harm to the Foundation as people start to think maybe something really is going on….


  11. Justin
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 04:11:16

    Where are BCM based again?


  12. innov8tivepi
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 15:00:03

    Agree RPi Foundation may have something to do with this. Eben Upton is also employed by Broadcom. This is also the reason for them to control the platform.

    They want to control market for their chip.


  13. Paul Hardwick
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 20:20:34

    I am dissapointed in Olimex for taking this line.


  14. azbest
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 23:19:51

    It seems RPF is very offensive to other arm based boards. Most topics about competitor products are closed in their off topic forum.
    E.g: BananaPi, Hummingboard and Odroid-W related ones.

    I don’t like those comments from insiders that say RPF have a lot expenses by developing software for Pi and others using those software are bad people. RPF also uses a lot of stuff developed by other non insider people. Odroid-w could be a copetitor for their compute module and it can cut some profit out from their plan. There were some nasty things around every big announchments made by RPF

    (eg. Lying about the distribution system until ordering opened fort the first batch. Lying about official cases that never made. Arguing with real gpu driver developers about the released wrapper code that announced as source code. Lying about new board revisions before announements…. ah and lot of disappointing replies for the critics.)

    RPF made a really impressive benefaction by proving people are hungry for cheaper dev boards and they happy to use them. Many other company started to make cheaper boards for non professional use after RPF demonstrated the business potential of them. So, I recognize the merrits of the foundation, but I don’t like the very profit hungry behaviour of them.


    • Daniel Bull
      Aug 30, 2014 @ 11:40:33

      This thread in particular does seem to indicate that the foundation may have had something to do with it.

      James H in particular makes it clear that he was displeased with the Odroid W and he doesn’t like it that 3rd party products are using code developed by the foundation. (Which to me seems a strange attitude as the only reason the Pi exists in the first place is because of code developed by the community which was taken and used by the foundation for their project, it’s all give and take that’s how OSS works, why can’t HardKernel do the same?)


      • Daniel Bull
        Aug 30, 2014 @ 12:22:19

        Just found out James H works for broadcom not the foundation so I retract the statement above and apologize. Although as an outsider there are some confusingly blurry lines between the two and that may be part of the problem.

  15. matthawkinsuk
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 21:05:33

    Azbest, why should the Foundation support Pi clones in their forum? Can’t the cloners run their own forums? The rest of your comment is complete rubbish. I assume you are a spammer from a clone board that is struggling to sell.


    • Daniel Bull
      Aug 31, 2014 @ 03:28:59

      It’s not all rubbish Matthew. I remember the claim that the source code was released when really it wasn’t it was just a wrapper. It’s also true that the majority of the software used in the Pi was not written by the Foundation and does indeed come from the community. In fact if we look at the amount of the code in Raspbian the Foundation is responsible for its going to be pretty tiny, so it is a bit cheeky for people to claim these other companies are somehow living off the Foundations work. That’s not to say the Foundation haven’t done a fantastic job, they absolutely have but it’s all part of a bigger community of which HardKernel is an active member, having made single board computers long before the Pi even existed.


    • azbest
      Sep 04, 2014 @ 01:13:29

      “The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a registered educational charity (registration number 1129409) based in the UK. Our Foundation’s goal is to advance the education of adults and children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science and related subjects”

      There is an “off topic” section on their forum, but it’s not welcome to talk about other similar boards there.

      I have one board from the first batch and an other one from rev2. I tried to make some project based on the Pi. I’m following the news about the raspi from the begining. And I don’t like what the foundation become. It behaves like a corporation and not like a charity. I know, the foundation needs money to work.
      But It’s all about profit maximization, now.


  16. anon
    Sep 01, 2014 @ 02:15:43

    Get fucked Eben.


  17. manuti
    Sep 01, 2014 @ 10:24:39


  18. ShadowJK
    Sep 01, 2014 @ 15:04:11

    Well, it wouldn’t be broadcom if they didn’t occasionally send their thugs around to break their customers’ kneecaps. Hard love, and all that.


  19. slated
    Sep 02, 2014 @ 05:21:13


  20. Daniel Bull
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 00:47:05

    Just an update on this, it’s been confirmed that HardKernel got the original 5000 chips directly from Broadcom (not via a 3rd party) and when they went back and asked for more Broadcom said no. The only thing we don’t know is why.

    I’m still sticking to my original guess that its likely this was due to Broadcom having a crazy minimum order policy and refusing to budge, rather than interference from the Foundation. It should be pointed out that HardKernel claim they were not informed of any minimum order quantity when they made the original order (which if true is pretty negligent of Broadcom, they should have made that very clear, especially to someone ordering 5000 chips). Also its worth remembering that Broadcom helped out the Foundation when they first started out by selling them small order quantities of the chip for the Pi (this is no secret) but of course that doesn’t oblige them to help anyone else out.

    At the end of the day I think if anyone has any gripes they are probably best directed at Broadcom rather than the Foundation. From what I’ve heard on the grapevine Broadcom are a difficult company to deal with and this seems to be simply another example of that rather than a conspiracy involving the foundation.


    • fanoush
      Sep 05, 2014 @ 17:13:46

      Just adding that the info about 5000 chips posted by Daniel is here http://forum.odroid.com/viewtopic.php?f=103&t=6359
      Since they bought 5000 just for the pilot the real order was possibly bigger (>10 thousand?) so the minimum ordering quantity reason looks fishy. Also odroid poster did not say they were refused due to minimum quantity. If this was the case he could clearly said so.

      As for “it was Broadcom not Foundation” argument – this does not matter – many RPI people work for Broadcom including Eben, these are effectively the same people. Look e.g. here http://blog.broadcom.com/chip-design/android-for-all-broadcom-gives-developers-keys-to-the-videocore-kingdom/ and who is the author. When there is a will, there is a way. Opensourcing Videocore IV specification was a miracle on its own. Do you really think people in this position could not influence what happened to odroid if they wanted?

      Of course there is no proof but please stop telling us it is all Broadcom and RPI foundation could not affect it.


  21. Georg Ottinger
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 12:05:26

    In my opinion Olimex should officially take back the accusation they made with this Blog post – I personally think that Olimex is a very likeable company (conserning their efforts, espacially in the domain of OSHW) – and a false accusation would only bring harm to Olimex’s reputation.


  22. Daniel Bull
    Sep 05, 2014 @ 19:56:00

    I heard on the grapevine Broadcom have deranged minimum order quantities and even 10k wouldn’t do it as you have to be hundreds of thousands.


  23. Grim
    Sep 06, 2014 @ 09:49:57

    Olimex does not have to say anything. This is ony a personal blog that just happens to be linked to their website – this isnt the voice of Olimex. Nothing said or commented here matters in the real world.

    But that is just me speculating.


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