Jef Spaleta (jspaleta) wrote,

Raspberry Pi. and what it means for boutique electronics more generally.

Anyone out there actually get lucky enough to buy one before the distributors sites failed in the initial onslaught? I didn't.

I've had to make due with reading the laypress reaction articles.
The interview with Mr. Upton concerning the project history is very informative.
http://www.linuxuser.co.uk/features/raspberry-pi-interview-eban-upton-reveals-all/

In particular his answer to why the project is incorporated as a non-profit is very interesting. Especially the bit about how component distribution channels directly impact the cost-control for niche products (10k units is niche for the purposes of this discussion).

He points to a subtle but important problem in device innovation at present. The distribution channels are geared to hinder boutique or small-batch crafted innovations from being cost competitive with mass produced goods. This isn't about volume discounts. We all understand that boutique and small batch goods have higher costs associted with their higher value. I prefer locally produced microbrew beer for a variety of reasons even though Budlight cost so much less. No, this is about the unnecessary operational markup imposed by the distribution channel model component manufacturers force small scale for-profit innonvators to use.

Even though the components being used are all commodity..it is the inefficiencies of the distribution channels which place the overhead of middelmen distributors between the product producers (the chip manufacturers) and the product consumer (in this case the raspberry pi project team) The fact that a small non-profit can arrange a direct relationship for a small volume order with component producers in a way that a small for-profit startup could not is a problem. Being non or for profit shouldn't matter. There's absolutely no reason for the arbitrary difference in access to small volume orders at a fair price. The prices raspberry pi are not a sweetheart deal..Mr. Upton confirms that explicitly...its just a policy decision to ignore small volume for-profit customers and make them deal with the markup of distributor middlemen. It's like telling my local microbrewers they could avoid using a hops wholesaler just because they were a non-profit.

In an age of 3d printing and on-demand self-services...electronic component makers need to do better. They need to find a way to service the boutique electronic industry in a much fairer fashion and learn to leverage them as part of an innovation cycle that lowers production costs for the the entire ecosystem of boutique goods. I want an affordable microbrew economy for electronics that can sustain local companies everywhere. I don't want a few large scale distributors of finished goods being the only viable for profit companies who can compete for consumer dollars.

-jef
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