Raspberry Pi 2 gets major speed boost and - shock - Windows 10 support

Nearly three years after its first going on sale, the basic Raspberry Pi has been given a major upgrade with the announcement of a new version which significantly bumps up the platform's processing power and memory.

The Raspberry Pi was always about creating a very cheap, low-power consumption computing device that would spur interest from young people and the education sector. In that it has succeeded beyond its creator's most optimistic expectations and today can be found in tens of thousands of schools and homes across the UK and beyond.

The original Raspberry Pi is still a modest device thanks to its aging 700Mhz single-core Broadcom ARM 11 processor coupled with only 256MB and later, on the model B, 512MB of RAM.

The new Raspberry Pi 2 increases the clock speed to 900Mhz (the part is officially 800Mhz) but more importantly uses the Broadcom's quad-core BCM2836 based on the ARM Cortex-A7 system-on-a-chip which the Foundation claims is up to six times as powerful as the old CPU, with 1GB of RAM.

Importantly, the jump in horsepower comes without changing the form factor (necessary for the many developer projects) with the connectors in the same place, using the same mains power adaptor. Computerworld understands that the power consumption will be "about the same" as the old model.

The new Pi will run the same ARMv6 Debian fork, Raspian.

"Over the next few months we will investigate whether we can obtain higher performance from regular ARMv7 Debian, or whether we can selectively replace a small number of libraries to get the best of both worlds," said project head, Eben Upton.

Upton does drop one bombshell, however, a consequence of the processor change.

"For the last six months we've been working closely with Microsoft to bring the forthcoming Windows 10 to Raspberry Pi 2. Microsoft will have much more to share over the coming months. The Raspberry Pi 2-compatible version of Windows 10 will be available free of charge to makers."

This shows how far the Pi has come from Linux homebrew world of 2012 to 2015, a world in which Microsoft has a new CEO and a new perspective on the what the extraordinary Raspberry Pi represents.

That is the version of Windows that runs on tablet devices such as the Surface - Windows RT in Windows 8 speak - the fate of which had been cloudy for after it went nowhere.

However, at the recent Windows 10 event Microsoft said it would continue development albeit without all the operating system's feature set. Nobody is sure what will mean but Raspberry Pi 2 owners will have the chance to find out.

The price of the Raspberry Pi remains the same as for the old model, £22.85 ($35) plus shipping. The old board will still be sold for developers that want them, Upton said.

With the site overloaded with traffic and sales going well, on day one the new Raspberry Pi looks as if it will be as much a success as the old one - sales are said it be running at around 2.5 million per year.


John E Dunn

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