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Software

There's more to the Pi/Microsoft partnership than hobbyists

So the new Raspberry Pi 2 is out this week. The hobbyist’s credit card-sized PC of choice is some six times more powerful than previous versions and comes with double the RAM. But aside from the incredible journey the London-based Pi foundation has taken in just a few years – over 4 million Pis sold all over the world, numerous imitators and companies built around the Pi hardware - the most notable aspect of this release is support for Windows 10.

“For the last six months we’ve been working closely with Microsoft to bring the forthcoming Windows 10 to Raspberry Pi 2,” said the press release, along with the promise that Microsoft’s forthcoming OS will be free of charge. Details are still lacking: in an interview for the Reg, Pi founder and CEO Eben Upton warned: “What we’re talking about here is Windows 10 for IoT [Internet of Things]; we’re not necessarily talking about PowerPoint or the Windows desktop. Microsoft will make a statement on what exact capabilities they plan to bring to the device fairly soon.”

The move shouldn’t be that surprising. Microsoft has already shown its desire to get Windows 10 out to the masses by making it free for all Windows 7 & 8 users, and [fairly] new CEO Satya Nadella has repeatedly shown he’s not afraid try new things, in this case the Internet of Things. “We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing,” Microsoft’s press release coos. “And we’re excited to be a part of this community.”

While 4 million units in three years might be great for the Pi Foundation, it’s small fry for a company Microsoft’s size. But it does show they’re a company with a big vision again. Analysts predict there could be almost 5 billion connected “Thing” devices by the end of the year and a segment worth hundreds of billions of dollars in a couple more. While the Redmond company will probably never have the kind of monopoly it did in the 90s, it could well pay to stake an early claim before Apple, Google and BlackBerry get too settled. 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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