Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Arduino Competition Causing Pricing Pressure

The assault by the microcontroller industry on the $30 Arduino Uno and its siblings is in full effect.

Once something becomes popular, people want them but prefer them cheaper, better, or faster.

The Arduino team has been working on this with mixed results.  The bigger and faster Due is still in a sort of beta with very poor software support compared to the mainstream Uno. The lack of add-on boards supporting the software and lower operating voltage has severely limited widespread adoption.  Better - in the form of Leonardo - has been very quiet except for the adoption of the chip and bootloader into many competing products (some rather good).  The Esplora is now carried in stores beyond the Radio Shack launch partner but the Esplora forum on the Arduino site is crickets, no activity.  All of this, with prices showing very little flexibility in the last year.  Those companies that priced the Uno at $35 have tended to lower the it to a fixed $29.95 price point.  Only Microcenter has shown flexibility, pricing the Uno down to $15 before relenting and having it bounce back to $25.  Finally Sainsmart has lowered their Arduino Mega R3 board down to $16.99.

Competition

1. Kickstarter - it seems everyone can and has come up with Arduino clones in every shape and size.  The trend though is than they are nearly always less expensive, the tiny ones very much so.  Keep an eye on the Spark Core that is red hot.

2. Clones using better chips - the Teensy and recently a line of Freescale processors have offered more capability at cheaper price points.

3. The big boys - yes the Raspberry Pi is not an Arduino competitor but adjunct, yes?  Yes and No.  Some of the Arduino's educational sales may be on hold while they learn about the Pi.  Boards like the Coocox Embedded Pi allow a Raspberry Pi to act as an arduino with shield support at an Uno price.  Finally the wildly popular UDOO combines Arduino Due and 4 times the Raspberry Pi power into one board.  The market also is receiving price pressure from Android and even small PC board makers with prices from $50 to $100.

Will innovation keep the official Arduino platform at current prices or will we see pressure to move manufacturing to Wales, UK (unlikely).