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BeagleBone Black SBC surpasses 100,000 units

Dec 28, 2013  |  Eric Brown

Sales of the open source BeagleBone Black SBC, which began shipping in May, have surpassed 100,000 units according to BeagleBoard.org.

BeagleBoard.org launched the first major community-backed open source single board computer (SBC) when it shipped the BeagleBoard back in 2008. Since then, the TI-oriented community group has spun off several BeagleBoard versions, and followed up with a smaller, cheaper BeagleBone board in 2011. A faster, cheaper, and HDMI-ready BeagleBone Black model appeared in May of this year.

Sold at a fetching $45, and based on a 1GHz Sitara AM3359 system-on-chip from Texas Instruments, the BeagleBone Black has now sold more than 100,000 units, according to the community group. That figure may pale in comparison to the over two million Raspberry Pi SBCs that have shipped in the last year and a half, up from a 1.75 million unit milestone announced in October. However, it appears to be well beyond what any other open source Linux-based SBC has sold.

The 100,000 unit figure is on the conservative side, according to Dave Anders, Senior Embedded Engineer at Circuitco, as it reflects only what has been sold directly to distributors such as Digikey, Mouser, and Adafruit. “Although the terms of use of the BeagleBoard products excludes the use of the products as part of OEM products, there are many companies that are doing so anyway,” said Anders in an email. Anders also noted that there are several open source products, such as the OpenROV underwater robot (pictured at the right), that incorporate the SBC and are not counted here.

According to an email from BeagleBoard.org cofounder Jason Kridner, sales picked up considerably during the 2013 year-end holiday season. The word has been spreading recently “with lots of great how-tos including at least six BeagleBone books either out or just about to be out and available for pre-order,” said Kridner. One particular boost came from Make Magazine, he added. “Make getting their ‘BeagleBone Getting Started Kits’ shipped out to Radio Shack outlets sucked up a bunch of boards all at once,” he said.

The Getting Started with the BeagleBone Black Kit (shown at right; click to enlarge) sells for $100 at the online Maker Shed. The kit includes the BeagleBone Black, along with a USB cable, “Deluxe” jumper wires, and Mintronics’s Survival Pack Guts. The latter includes a mini breadboard, and a variety of resistors, capacitors, trimpots, voltage regulators, diodes, transistors, and other components. The Make kit also supplies a copy of the “Getting Started with BeagleBone” book by Matt Richardson.

The BeagleBone has been a major presence at Make’s recent Maker Faires devoted to the maker community. The Arduino oriented maker community is increasingly looking at Linux boards like the Pi and the BeagleBone, with many exploring hybrid designs that combine one or both of the SBCs with Arduino circuitry.



BeagleBone Black
(click image to enlarge)

 

Compared to the earlier BeagleBone, the BeagleBone Black moved to the faster 1GHz Sitara SoC, doubled RAM to 512MB of DDR3, and for the first time offered onboard flash (2GB) in addition to the earlier microSD slot. For many developers, though, the big draw was the new micro-HDMI port, as well as the $45 price tag. Although that’s still $10 to $20 more than a Pi, it halved the earlier BeagleBone’s $89 price.

According to Kridner, BeagleBoard.org will have a number of announcements regarding the BeagleBone Black in the new few months. These are said to include “a significant software update, moving our in-the-box distribution to Debian, and an updated version of the Cloud9 IDE.” There will also be “more in-the-box tutorials using JavaScript, and simplified programming of the PRU microcontrollers,” said Kridner.

The PRU, or programmable real-time unit, is a Sitara feature that offers some unique hardware options for BeagleBone Black developers. This subsystem comprises dual 32-bit RISC microcontrollers that enable customization of I/O. However, the PRU is notoriously difficult to program.

The switch to Debian was news to us. The BeagleBone Black’s 2GB of onboard flash is currently preloaded with an updated, newly Yocto Project compatible version of Angstrom Linux. Of course, like most open SBCs, it supports a variety of Linux distributions. The Black also supports distros including Fedora, Ubuntu, and even Android.
 

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