The $4 Raspberry Pi Pico went on sale in late January and is proving yet another hit for the British computer board maker.

Raspberry Pi Pico:  board nears one million orders

The Raspberry Pi Pico features the company’s first custom silicon.

Image: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has said that orders of its latest board, the $4 Raspberry Pi Pico, is already nearing one million units, with the company now preparing to ramp-up production even further.

The
Raspberry Pi Pico

was launched on January 24. The fact that the company is approaching one million orders in less than two months is impressive enough in itself.

SEE: Hardware inventory policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Company co-founder Eben Upton told TechRepublic that between 300,000 and 400,000 units had been shipped so far. Currently, the company is mostly serving hobbyists: this is fairly typical, with Upton pointing out that initial sales to Raspberry Pi fans were almost always followed by rapid uptake by industry and education.

“We’ve sold a cumulative total of 38 million units of the ‘big’ Raspberry Pi products, with a run rate of more than seven million units in 2020,” he told TechRepublic.

“I could see Pico (and other boards based on RP2040) blowing past this run rate and cumulative total pretty quickly.”  

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The Pico is the first microcontroller-class device from the British computer maker, as well as the first in the
Raspberry Pi family

to feature the company’s own custom silicon, the RP2040.

As Raspberry Pi explains, microcontrollers already underpin much of the technology that surrounds us, providing the unseen source of computing power for everything from household electronics and appliances to gadgets, robotics and even toys. The RP2040 was designed to hit the sweet spot between power, flexibility and cost, serving either as a standalone board for deep-embedded development, or as a microcontroller ‘companion’ to Raspberry Pi computers.

The company previous said that it had three principal design goals in mind for its custom silicon: high performance, particularly for integer workloads; flexible I/O for wide compatibility with external devices, as well as Raspberry Pi’s signature low cost, to help eliminate barriers to entry.

These are the Raspberry Pi Pico specs, according to Raspberry Pi:

  • Dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ @ 133MHz
  • 264KB (remember kilobytes?) of on-chip RAM
  • Support for up to 16MB of off-chip Flash memory via dedicated QSPI bus
  • DMA controller
  • Interpolator and integer divider peripherals
  • 30 GPIO pins, 4 of which can be used as analogue inputs
  • 2 × UARTs, 2 × SPI controllers, and 2 × I2C controllers
  • 16 × PWM channels
  • 1 × USB 1.1 controller and PHY, with host and device support
  • 8 × Raspberry Pi Programmable I/O (PIO) state machines
  • USB mass-storage boot mode with UF2 support, for drag-and-drop programming   

“With Pico we’ve hit the ‘pocket money’ price point, yet in RP2040 we’ve managed to pack in enough CPU performance and RAM to run more heavyweight applications such as MicroPython, and AI workloads like TinyML,” said James Adams, chief operating officer and hardware lead at Raspberry Pi.

Driving down the price point even further is the fact that Raspberry Pi has been able to package its Pico boards in tape and reel, which Adams explained was cost-effective, offered good packing density and meant lower shipping costs.

SEE: Lunchboxes, pencil cases and ski boots: The unlikely inspiration behind Raspberry Pi’s case designs (TechRepublic)  

Creating the Raspberry Pi Pico is viewed very much as something special for Adams and his team. Not only has the company been able to build a board from the ground up based entirely to its own specification, but the Pico and the RP2040 also give Raspberry Pi far greater autonomy over the production process. 

Adams explained: “Pico is also our most vertically integrated product; meaning we control everything from the chip through to finished boards. This ‘full stack’ design approach has allowed optimization across the different parts, creating a more cost-effective and coherent whole – it’s no wonder we’re not the only fruit company doing this.”

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