Raspberry Pi – a surprising great British technology success?

I’m not sure how many of us knew anything about Raspberry Pi until today but it’s refreshing to see that the British Foundation behind it have had such a successful launch that their website has crashed due to overwhelming demand and the first 10,000 units have sold out straight away.

So what the hell is Raspberry Pi and what on earth have they done to create such a demand for launch? Well, for the uninitiated Raspberry Pi is actually just a basic computer board as shown below.

As someone who strongly advocates ‘simplexity’ you may wonder why I am heralding such a product as Raspberry Pi.

The answer is that despite looking like – and actually being – a highly complex technical product the Raspberry Pi Foundation are actually taking some great steps of simplexity to build their launch success.

Firstly, their vision is very straightforward, unique and compelling for a large number of children & parents alike – ‘to inspire a new generation of schoolchildren to programme computers‘.

But why would programming such an unsexy computer board like this be compelling in today’s age when children are spending increasing time consuming various digital media on their multitude of gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets and connected games consoles?

For the children I guess that IT geeks still fall some way behind ‘sports star’, ‘musician’ and ‘B-list reality TV show celebrity’ but I’m sure that the phenomenal success and wealth of people behind digital businesses such as Facebook and Angry Birds, etc. will have an increasing number of kids wanting to emulate them.

For the parents, well wouldn’t you rather encourage your children to learn computer programming rather than have them spending all their time playing games on your iPad?

The Foundation have taken a number of other simple moves to help create their success:

  • There are only 2 variants of the product and both are really cheap – from just £16 for a mini computer which should be within the reach of all families
  • The technical product uses common and cheap format to keep costs down and ensure some future-proofing (SD cards for storage and HDMI for video output to TV)
  • They agreed 2 licensing deals with UK distributors that will hopefully provide (after initial launch success) good online sales and minimised their commercial risk
  • Awareness to date has been built in a simple low-cost way through both a link up with local schools around Cambridge and now what would seem to be a great PR and online push – today being the #1 most shared story on http://www.bbc.co.uk!

Hopefully the Government will help and get right behind this initiative to encourage the use of IT such as Raspberry Pi in schools.

There is also great potential for a wide range of businesses such as BBC, Sony and even Microsoft to provide support and incentives for kids to push themselves to create the most exciting Raspberry Pi programmes. Not only would this be a great corporate social responsibility initiative but they could also get these children more actively engaging with their brand.

This is of course just the beginning and true project & commercial success will only really occur if they can continue to sell 10,000 or more of these every week and get large numbers of children busy creating exciting new ‘Raspberry Pi Apps’ to share with their friends.

But who knows, maybe this simple scheme will soon develop a British child launching ‘Facebook 2.0′ having learnt their initial programming skills on a Raspberry Pi?

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