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2 March 2012
Ever since I first heard about the Raspberry Pi I've wanted one. I saw the advance announcement and woke up early on the day of the launch in an attempt to get one of the first batch. I was unsuccessful, but after waiting so long a few more weeks is not really going to be a big problem. I think that what the Foundation has achieved is amazing. They have designed and manufactured a product that brings the cost of a computer down to less than many spend on one month's mobile phone and/or broadband.
There has however been a lot of criticism due to websites unable to deal with the load, lack of availability and that the community has been ignored by a commercial product launch. Whilst it didn't go as smoothly as it could I think the launch was in fact a success and considering what they have achieved is very promising.
I wrote a Facebook comment in defense of the Raspberry Pi foundation against a pretty damningblog post and some unpleasant social networking comments about what has happened (note I am not involved with the Raspberry Pi in anyway other than very eager to get my hands on one). I suspect these posts were all from people that had not gone through the process of trying to launch a product with only a self-funded charity to support them. My comment was a bit long - so here it is for the benefit of others
Sounds to me more that it's a victim of it's own success. I was one of the ones that got up early (I'm in the UK so only 1 hour before I normally would) and I was frustrated that by the time I finally got through (6 hours later) the ETA is mid April.
I don't think that the retailers handled it too well, but then how many other retailers have been hit by a big product launch that crippled their servers (not the first time I've had timeouts from overloaded websites). In this era of social media frenzy thousands of supporters can find out about the launch within a very short period of time.
From the foundation's point of view I think this was a good way of handling the sales and future production. Whilst it may not reward the loyal supporters partnering with these suppliers is in the medium to long term going to get the production lines rolling out products much faster than the 10,000 product batches that the foundation would be able to support. I can't see how the foundation's online shop could possibly cope with the amount of demand that crippled these big retailers.
The real test is going to be the future success. How popular will the Raspberry Pi be in 12 months time, when the foundation and the community have already had their chance to provide more details about what can be achieved and how to program. And crucially, as I put on my blog, whether they can convince the politicians and education system to adopt this as part of the curriculum. As this is not intended to be just a cheap PC, but as a educational tool that can be used in schools.
Just one thing though I think they do need to get the normal website back up and running. Even if I've got over a month to wait to get hold of one, it will be useful to see what is available so far (although Farnell have the datasheets and some more information on their website). At the moment it still says: "The full site will return once traffic levels have subsided, hopefully later on today."This isn't the end game for the Raspberry Pi - this is just the end of the hardware design and initial manufacturer phase and the start of the real journey that could see a dramatic change in the way computers are seen by the programmers of the future.
One of the reasons I am so excited about the Raspberry Pi, other than the opportunity to get a cheap PC in every room in the house :-), is that the aims of this are similar to what I've been trying to achieve with my PenguinTutor web site. My site is more about learning system administration skills and whilst it was more intended for adults wanting to learn Linux, it is a useful thing that could provide a more vocational side to school IT learning. This could be a further educational benefit in addition to learning programming as the Raspberry Pi is designed for.