BeagleBoard.org announced a slightly pricier Rev C version of the BeagleBone Black that doubles eMMC flash and switches from Angstrom to Debian Linux.
To celebrate the first birthday of the BeagleBone Black, BeagleBoard.org is shipping a new version of the open source hacker SBC called the Rev C. An update on the BeagleBone Black Wiki says the board will be slightly more expensive than the $45 Rev B, which will be phased out when the C version starts shipping May 5. The additional $10 to $15 pays for the only apparent hardware upgrade: a doubling of onboard eMMC flash to 4GB. The device will also ship with the more user-friendly Debian Linux instead of Angstrom.
BeagleBone Black Rev C
(click image to enlarge)
Hackertronic and Sparkfun have already opened pre-sales for the upgraded version at $55. RP Electronics is selling it for $58, and in Europe Tigal is selling its for 47.50 Euros, or about $65. Shipments are said to start as early as April 29.
The enhancements to the BB Black were said to be due to customer demand. In addition, BeagleBoard.org and its manufacturing partner CirtcuitCo were growing concerned over the long-term availability of the 2GB flash modules, as compared to 4GB.
Yet, the chief motivator appears to be the growing shortages of BeagleBone Black boards. “Currently there is $0 margin on these boards which limits our ability to bring more manufacturing capacity on line,” states the wiki entry. “Adding some margin allows us to find more capacity. Without margin, we cannot respond to component price increases due to market forces. This is of particular concern in the area of NAND and DDR3. We have been successful in fighting back some increases, but we don’t know if that will continue.”
Manufacturing of Rev B boards will cease on May 5, says the wiki. In reality, however, these boards are already on back-order, so you’re probably out of luck if you’re still looking to buy a BB Black for only $45.
Around 150,000 boards are currently on distributor back-order, according to an April 13 blog posting from BeagleBoard.org cofounder Jason Kridner entitled “Dude, where’s my BeagleBone Black?.” Here, Kridner announces the new revision as part of an effort to boost production and reduce the backlog of orders that has stretched on since late last year. The spike in demand from Make’s Getting Started with BeagleBone kit, which began selling in Radio Shack stores before the holidays was exacerbated by Georgia Tech’s selection of the BB Black for its massively open online mobile robotics course, hosted on Coursera, writes Kridner.
Manufacturing expands to Element14
With the help of the additional income received from the Rev C, BeagleBoard.org and CircuitCo are now ramping up production. In addition, BeagleBoard.org is expanding production to Premier Farnell’s Element14, which is the first licensee in a new BeagleBoard Compliant logo program. Element14, which also manufactures the Raspberry Pi, and the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module, will pay a small royalty to the BeagleBoard.org Foundation in exchange for the logo, which shows that “we’ve verified they can produce quality clones of BeagleBone Black,” writes Kridner.
Element14′s Embest subsidiary, which also offers hacker boards including its own Freescale i.MX6-based MarS Board, has been making BeagleBone Black replicas for the China market since the product launch a year ago, writes Kridner. Embest’s logo compliant boards that will ship in the U.S. will be sold under the Element14 brand.
When BeagleBoard.org released the BB Black last year for just $45, or about half the price of the original, $89 BeagleBone, it was clear that the margins would be tight. The Linux- and Android-ready board was already more complex than the more popular, $35 Raspberry Pi, and the Black version upped the processor to a 1GHz Texas Instruments Sitara AM3359 SoC. It also doubled the RAM to 512MB and added 2GB of flash and a micro-HDMI port. Now that users are accustomed to the $45 price, however, they may be less willing to spend more.
BeagleBoard.org hopes to entice new users, however, by shifting from the Yocto-based Angstrom Linux to a more widely accessible Debian-based distribution. Kridner tipped plans to make the switch back in December when he announced the board had surpassed the 100,000 unit mark.
“Feedback from different people, especially Adafruit, tells us this will improve usability in the largest segments of our community,” writes Kridner in his latest post. “Angstrom Distribution is much more customizable and is very friendly to professional developers looking to tweak the most out of the system, but for many novices it introduces a barrier to learning. Debian is the basis for Ubuntu, includes ARM Cortex-A8 support in their mainline, and is very familiar to a huge population of developers. It also takes a bit more space on the flash storage to provide the best user experience.”
As an open hacker board, the BeagleBoard Black can still be loaded with Angstrom, and other Linux-based distributions including Ubuntu and Android. However, the default Debian distribution will be pre-loaded on the board’s flash, and will be the most fully supported.
The BeagleBone Black Rev C is currently available for pre-ordering at online stores including Hackertronics’s Makertronic store ($55), Sparkfun ($55), RP Electronics ($57.78), and Tigal (47.50 Euros plus VAT). Shipments are expected by the end of the month.