The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the impending launch of a new computer-on-module (CoM) version of its popular low-cost microcomputer, offering all the functionality of the full-sized models in a SODIMM form factor.
Taking the same 67.6mm x 30mm footprint as a laptop memory module, and borrowing the same connector for ease of manufacture, the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module features the same BCM2835 system-on-chip processor and 512MB of RAM as its full-sized equivalent. 4GB of on-board storage is also included, a first for the Pi family.
The Pi's various connectors, however, are spread onto a motherboard which includes full access to the processor's various features. While lacking the network connectivity of the full-size Model B, which requires the use of a USB-connected hub and Ethernet chip external to the BCM2835, the IO board includes access to all the chip's on-board facilities - including its general-purpose input-output (GPIO) capabilities.
Unlike the full-size Pi, the IO board - but not the Compute Module itself - will be released as open hardware, the Foundation has confirmed. This will allow manufacturers to customise the boards for their own requirements, adding in features such as the missing Ethernet connector or building entirely new layouts such as blade-style multi-core boards with multiple Compute Modules. It will also make it easer for manufacturers to consider building commercial products around the Compute module, integrating the more compact design into their boards without the need to find the credit-card footprint needed by the original Pi design.
Here, however, the Pi enters a relatively crowded market. SODIMM-sized computer-on-module boards are nothing new, and the Pi's underpowered ARM processor - a sacrifice made by Broadcom in exchange for surprisingly powerful multimedia capabilities, a feature likely lost on the industrial market - will likely mean an uphill struggle for market share. The Foundation has indicated that it intends to compete on price, and while there are no official figures for the kit which bundles a single module with the IO board it has indicated a unit price of around $30 per unit in trays of 100 for the Compute Module itself.
More details are available on the Raspberry Pi website