Hardware

Raspberry Pi in 2017: New boards, new OSes and more

What new hardware and software is likely in the pipeline for the bestselling $35 credit card-sized board?

pi3-0.jpg

The latest version of the $35 credit card-sized computer, the Raspberry Pi 3.

Image: Matt Richardson mrichardson23@gmail.com

This year, the $35 Raspberry Pi leaped forward a generation, with the release of the third iteration of the credit card-sized computer.

But while 2017 will likely be a somewhat quieter year, there are still upgrades in the pipeline and new hardware to look forward to.

Here are the a few predictions about what you should, and shouldn't, expect concerning the best-selling board next year.

Launch of the Compute Module 3

Expect to see the Raspberry Pi powering far more appliances in 2017, following the release of the Compute Module 3 (CM3).

Due to be launched "very early next year", the CM3 will pack the same quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 processor and 1GB memory used on the Pi 3 onto a slimmer and smaller board.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide

The compact design of the Compute Module, which comes with 4GB eMMC Flash storage, makes it better suited to being built into electronic products.

The CM3 marks a significant leap forward in processing power, since the previous Compute Module was based on the first-generation, single-core Raspberry Pi, which is up to ten times slower than the third-generation board.

When released, it will also be the first Compute Module to run Windows 10 IoT Core, a cut-down version of Windows 10 designed to support Internet of Things appliances.

Following the launch of the Compute Module, the electronics giant NEC has pledged to build a custom version of the CM3 into 40-, 48-, and 55-inch screens.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model A release

Originally expected to release last year, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A now looks likely to be launched in the coming year.

Like the Pi 1 Model A, the board will be a version of the Pi 3 that has no Ethernet and only one USB port, but that sells for a cheaper price. Unlike the Pi 1 Model A, the lack of an Ethernet port and single USB will be compensated for by the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity in the Pi 3 Model A.

Speaking in February, the Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton said he expected the Pi 3 Model A to launch in the middle of this year, so a 2017 release date seems likely, however the Raspberry Pi Foundation didn't respond when asked for an update on when the Pi 3 Model A was likely to launch.

New operating systems

The Raspberry Pi is already home to a plethora of operating systems, but 2017 promises to see even more OSes ported to the $35 board.

Making this possible will be ongoing work to unlock more of the visual processing power of the board using the open-source VC4 graphics driver, which is continuing to be refined by Eric Anholt.

Speaking earlier this year, Upton said that this open-source driver, combined with the faster, 64-bit processor on the Pi 3, would make it easier to port over new operating systems.

New operating systems continue to be brought to the Pi, most recently the preview release of Android Things, a bare bones version of Google's OS focused on IoT devices rather than mobile.

Don't expect the Raspberry Pi 4

Upton has all but ruled out the release of the next generation of Raspberry Pi in 2017.

While the third-generation board was only released one year after the second, the leap to the fourth generation will likely be more tricky.

The rapid release of the Pi 3 is something of a one-off, he said earlier this year, made possible by the availability of the board's more powerful chipset and a fall in the cost of producing the Pi, which enabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to be added without increasing the price.

"We're kind of at the end of that particular roadmap. I would expect a longer pause, a couple of years at least, before any kind of major bump to the platform," he said at the time.

Don't expect more memory

Upton has also cautioned against expecting the Pi's memory to be increased beyond 1GB in the near future.

In an interview this autumn, Upton said that in the short term, it was unlikely to be possible to squeeze more memory onto to board without increasing the price and size of the Pi.

While he suggested that 2GB "might be feasible in a few years' time", he said that in the meantime the Foundation would focus on optimising software to run on the 1GB of memory on the Raspberry Pi 3.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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