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« Avid Studio provides iMovie with some much needed competition | Main | Video: Creativity in the Digital Age from iWorld 2012 »

Raspberry Pi. The fruity computer that's even more exciting than the iPad

In terms of new technology there's a lot to look forward to in 2012. Your TV might become a little more useful thanks to a new Apple TV. Your iPad screen is likely to become as clear as ink on paper courtesy of the iPad 3 with its Retina display. Early previews of iOS 6 are likely to bring a whole host of refinements that bring it even closer to the functionality of OS X. All good things, we're sure you'll agree. But all those developments, as exciting as they are, will be shadowed by what we consider to be one of the most important product launches of the last ten years.

A powerful computer for less than the cost of a decent meal

Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that will retail for just £16 ($25). It's powered by a chipset designed by Broadcom (the BCM2835 to be precise) that is powerful enough to perform many some common computing tasks and tackle almost any media file, including 1080p video at Blu-ray quality. Despite its tiny price tag, Raspberry Pi includes many of the ports of a regular computer, including USB, SD, HDMI, and on the slightly more expensive version, Ethernet. Designed as an entry level computer to encourage children to start coding and generally tinker with computing hardware, we think Raspberry Pi will likely appeal to a much larger audience.

To demonstrate why, we've included at the head of this post a video demonstration of Raspberry Pi functioning as an AirPlay receiver, playing back full 1080p video streamed from an iOS device. At just £16 it might be worth introducing the Raspberry Pi to just about every TV in the house.

From personal computing to ubiquitous computing

The iPad is just about the most personal computer we know of, but Raspberry Pi represents the beginning of a different age, the age of ubiquitous computing. Imagine a computer with 10 times the power of the Raspberry Pi but at 1/10th of the cost and probably 1/10th of the size, that's where this is heading, and probably within just a handful of years. What will this mean for you and I? We don't honestly know, and that's why we are so excited about Raspberry Pi, what programmers do with this first generation model will give us a good glimpse into the future of ubiquitous computing.

Why mention the Raspberry Pi on an iPad focused website?

There are several reasons why we mention the Raspberry Pi here. Firstly, with its AirPlay ability we see the Raspberry Pi as being a great companion computer to the iPad. Sure the next Apple TV unit is likely to be considerably more powerful than the Raspberry Pi, but it's unlikely to be as flexible. Secondly, as two geeks who grew up at a time when kids all over the UK spent a good deal of their time learning how to programme their own personal computers, we would love to see a return to that important hobby in the coming decade. It's a form of creativity that will be forever baked into our psyche and we can't wait to see its triumphant return!

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