If you are a fan of Raspberry Pi products and like to buy them in numbers less than 10000, it's been a rough few years. While supply chain woes have been seen across the board, affecting every aspect of electronics production, the lack of Raspberry Pis for hobbyists and small businesses has received a lot of publicity.
It seems, however, that things are about to change for the better. In a blog post on the Raspberry Pi blog, Eben Upton reveals that single-sale Pis are already back in circulation, and more should become available as time goes on. It's not smooth sailing yet, but it should at least be possible for those who aren't obsessively scraping supplier sites to buy a Pi!
As outlined in the blog post, there are a few price changes incoming. The Raspberry Pi 4GB model returns to its $45 price point, and all Compute Module 4 products will recieve a $5 price increase. Due to changes in production methods, the Raspberry Pi Zero will also see a price increase. The original Zero will increase from $5 to $10 dollars, with the Zero W going up from $10 to $15.
So, with supply chain issues not totally resolved and price changes coming for the Pi, is this really good news?
The Tip of the Pi-ceberg
While the news from Raspberry PI was mostly met with a positive response, there have been a few dissenting voices. Some folks are angry that Raspberry Pi prioritized their industrial customers over the smaller hobby market that launched the brand years ago.
Or did they? Since its initial release, the Raspberry Pi has seen customers large and small. The original wave of Raspberry Pi use covered a huge footprint, and it wasn't long until huge orders came in for the tiny, low-power Linux machines. While Raspberry Pi has a charitable foundation that focuses on education and outreach, Raspberry Pi is a hardware company like any other.
While it may leave a sour taste in the mouth of some, focussing on your largest customers in difficult times is simply good business sense. The fact that they have worked so hard to get the Pi back in the hands of hobbyists is a great sign. It means that despite the shortages and despite the difficulty getting back to regular stock levels, they still want to make Raspberry Pi products accessible to every potential customer.
So, what about those price increases?
Another point of contention may be the price increases. The Pi Zero built its reputation as the "$5 Tiny Linux Computer." The change in price, along with a few changes, signifies the end of this era right?
Well, kind of but not really. Eben mentions in the blog that Raspberry Pi has already absorbed a large chunk of the incurred costs caused by the semiconductor shortage. This is a notable thing for a large company to do, especially given the price hikes across the board from part vendors worldwide.
However, even with stock problems improving, simply swallowing this loss is not sustainable. While some may disagree, these price changes represent a move back to sustainability - financially for Raspberry Pi, and in terms of availability to us, the hobby user.
After all, is the concept of a $10 tiny Linux computer really any less magic?