Microsoft has confirmed its new Windows 10 operating system will be made available free to developers working on the low-cost Raspberry Pi micro PC board.
The Pi 2 is among a series of small footprint Internet of Things, or IoT, devices that will be offered a version of the new OS. In a company blog post Wednesday, Microsoft said Windows 10 will “provide great options for commercial devices builders, hobbyists and students.” So it’s not just an offer for the so-called maker community of hobbyists and schoolkids (the original market for the sub-$50 micro PCs).
The announcement, relayed to me by Broadsign CTO Bryan Mongeau, confirms reports form early February about the Microsoft-Raspberry Pi Foundation partnership, and adds more detail.
So what does that mean in the context of digital signage?
Well, you have an operating system used by many, many, many signage CMS companies that can now be dropped (presumably with some tweaks) on very low-cost but respected devices. Yes, there are now low-cost Android players and sub-$100 sticks, but they can take a lot of work to 1) find reliable hardware at low cost, and 2) get fully working, reliably. And yes Google’s Chrome OS and management console and sub-$200 Chromeboxes are getting a lot of attention, but the management software for Chromeboxes adds $50 a year, or $150 lifetime.
“The primary objection to Windows has always been cost,” explains Mongeau. “Hence the main appeal of all these free OS’es like Linux, Chrome OS, Android, etc was to avoid the Windows tax.”
“It looks like that barrier will be removed shortly. These OS’es will then need to compete on ecosystem (Windows wins), support lifespan (Windows wins) and feature set for DS (Windows wins).”
The Pi 2 IS an entry-level device, and with an enclosure and solid state memory and cables and so on it isn’t really sub-$50. But talk to guys like Bryan Crotaz at the UK firm Silver Curve, and they’ll tell you that the Pi board’s graphics capabilities for digital signage are very good for the price. The new one – the Pi 2 – has a quad-core processor, so it is billed as 6X more performance than the original Crotaz was testing and showing.
Being an end-user right now – charged with deciding which technology path to take – must be tough. There are so many options and the game keeps changing.
Then again, it’s a good time to be a consultant ;-]