As it has its best ever year for sales, Raspberry Pi wants to do more to help businesses that want to integrate its tiny computers into their devices.
The Cambridge-based single-board computer maker has sold seven million Raspberry Pi units during 2020. In March, Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton said it had its second highest monthly sales ever, reaching 640,000 units, with sales accelerating as people sought cheap computers for learning during lockdown.
"This has been our best year, at seven million units," Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton told ZDNet.
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Upton had expected sales of just 10,000 units after the 2012 launch, but by 2013 sales reached 700,000 units, and climbed to four million units in 2014. It hit 10 million units in 2016, and 14 million units in 2017, and 23 million in 2018.
But a big chunk of its sales are destined for industrial applications. Raspberry Pi estimates 44% of the computers are sold to the industrial market each year. It bases this figure on the observation that large numbers of older models continue being bought after sales of the latest Raspberry Pi decline.
The Raspberry Pi 4 launched in in June 2019. It released the $25 Raspberry Pi 4-based Computer Module in October and last month followed it up with the $70 Raspberry Pi 400 retro keyboard computer.
"Typically sales of a consumer product drop off once a new product is released, but we still see incredible sales of older models of Raspberry Pi. Our inference is that these are destined for embedded applications, where changing to the latest model is not practical," said Roger Thornton, a Raspberry Pi hardware engineer in a blogpost.
To support industrial customers, Raspberry Pi has launched an Approved Design Partners program that other businesses match up with if they want to integrate the Raspberry Pi into their products.
It's also published a new 'for industry' website with resources for those who want to integrate the Pi into their products. The primary model for that is the Compute Module 4, which lacks the usual USB and HDMI ports and is compact enough to fit in small products.
Thornton notes that Raspberry Pi Trading just keeps making old models rather than ditching them with each new model. For example, it still sells the Raspberry 1 Model B+ from 2014.
Companies in engineering, electronics and product design can apply to become part of the Raspberry Pi Approved Design Partners program and through that gain "some" technical knowledge and support from Raspberry Pi, but not an unlimited amount.
"As an Approved Design Partner, you will receive some (but not unlimited) support from the engineering team at Raspberry Pi, and your company will be featured on the Raspberry Pi website so potential clients can contact you for help designing Raspberry Pi into their products," Raspberry Pi notes on the application page.