Everything connects. In the last week there have been two posts on MNN discussing trends in computing: the phone becoming your main computer and the possible disappearance of the keyboard as text to type becomes so good that you don’t need the device. Now here's a third transformation to add to the mix: The Raspberry Pi Foundation just introduced its model 3, which has WiFi and Bluetooth built into a more powerful package, still just $35 per unit. On TreeHugger, Megan describes it as having a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU (about 10 times the performance of Raspberry Pi 1), Integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1. There is a gig of soldered-on RAM.
The price stays the same but the computer keeps getting better, to the point that founder Eben Upton can say in Verge that people should finally begin to think of this as a fully useable computer:
“There is a weird thing,” Upton says, where people view the Pi 2 as slightly too slow to be a real PC. “I’m really quite hopeful that this time we might come across that line that we’ve been trying to cross for a long time,” he says. “That we’ve made a thing where you can really say, ‘Yes, this is a PC.’”
Windows just announced its support for the Pi 3, offering a stripped-down Internet of Things version of Windows 10:
Optimized for connected things and smaller devices with or without a display, Windows 10 IoT Core brings the power of Windows, including enterprise grade security and servicing, automatic updates through Windows Update when connected to the Internet and the rich Universal Windows Platform (UWP) APIs that give apps easy control over system management features.
That’s not the full version, so you won’t yet be running Microsoft Office native on the Pi 3. But there are lots of alternatives that will run in Linux on the Pi 3 and there are even more Web and cloud offerings that do most jobs just fine.
Jacob Kastrenakes of the Verge notes that the connectivity will make it more useful for a lot of people:
The addition of Bluetooth will be more important for hobbyists and researchers, who are already using Pis to collect data from various sensors around their labs and homes. With on-board Bluetooth, the Pi will now be able to collect data from sensors without being directly wired to them. Being able to use a wireless keyboard and mouse is a nice benefit, too.
Indeed it is. So while one scenario we have been looking at used the phone as our main computer, now we have a Pi 3 that costs almost nothing but can do the work of a modest laptop. No doubt in the near future it will run dictation programs as good as the new Google doc feature and we won’t need to carry around a keyboard.
And instead of our computer being in our phone, it can be everywhere in our home, our office, our coffee shop table, wherever; at $35 it’s almost cheaper to have a few of them talking over Wi-Fi than it is to run cables. It can become part of the fabric of our surroundings.
This series was originally inspired by an article written in 1985, at the birth of the wireless phone, discussing how portability of the phone meant that your desk was dead and your office is where you are. Over the years, I've had fun with it and changed the concept to Your office is in your pants.
Now that full computers are $35, they may soon be all around us. Perhaps it’s time to forget the pants and revert to the original 1985 vision: Your office (and everything else) is where you are.
Here's an interview I did of Upton a few years ago, just after the Pi took off. It takes place in a noisy Copenhagen courtyard, but you can clearly hear the excitement of it all: