Raspberry Pi founder: 'we hope a lot of people make a lot of money'

Eben Upton
Eben Upton wants Raspberry Pi to be more than a tool for tinkering

It's important that Raspberry Pi has a low price so enthusiasts can afford it, founder Eben Upton told TechRadar at Maker Faire.

It's a gathering of thousands of hardware hackers and 'maker' enthusiasts building everything from ride-on robot giraffes to milk bottles that can tell you if the milk has gone off, where Raspberry Pi was getting an enthusiastic reception), but it has to be profitable as well as cheap.

Upton wants Raspberry Pi to be more than a tool for tinkering; he wants it to enable the next generation of hardware developers and system designers. "It's all about how to look at a problem and say how can I solve this in the cheapest and easiest way. There's a smooth curve from 'PRINT HELLO WORLD' to chief architect. If everyone had a PC we could get them started in a day. It's all about the cost and a lot of effort went into that."

Keeping costs down

That focus on keeping costs down continues as Raspberry Pi adds new features, like the camera board with 1080p encoding that's due in Q3. If the full 14 megapixel resolution of the camera chip they're currently testing proves too expensive, they'll pick a lower resolution. And it's why when we asked what's next for Raspberry Pi, Upton said the next goals were adding touchscreen support and selling enough units to make it an attractive ecosystem.

Upton has his eye on some Toshiba interface chips that will give Raspberry Pi a Display Serial Interface connector and support touch as well, which he says will "round out the platform for input and output". Once the connector is ready, he already knows of people planning to build Raspberry Pi tablets.

Those are the kind of products that need lots of companies building on top of Raspberry Pi and that's why it's important to sell plenty of hardware – and to make money.

Raspberry Pi

"[We want to] get volume into the market. There's a big difference in having ten thousand or a hundred thousand units out there and having a million. We have no full time employees. If we try to do it all ourselves we are doomed. We hope a lot of people make a lot of money. We hope they figure out how to make boards, how to make money. Just because we are open doesn't mean we're allergic to money. We're not from that end of the open hardware spectrum."

He was inspired by the glory days of the 1980s when it felt like anyone who learned to program could have a hit game on their hands and he hopes Raspberry Pi can evoke that same sense of potential and possibilities.

"There were kids with Porsches sitting in their drive waiting until they were old enough to drive them," he reminisced - which helped stop his mother telling him "don't waste your time playing with computers". There's a touch of the homegrown success in Raspberry Pi. "Even this bits that aren't done by Broadcom are ARM," he points out. So a British computing ecosystem? "Why not!" he enthuses.

And so far, Raspberry Pi is a commercial success. "It's not a loss making product. Everyone involved is making money. People say 'Broadcom is giving you the chips for free'; no! If someone was giving stuff away for free it would be unsustainable."

The Broadcom chip (which he enthusiastically calls "a lot of fun for the money") is cheap to start with. "We've got an SoC that is not costing us thirty or forty bucks; there are There are SoCs out there that cost as much as [the whole] Raspberry Pi."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.