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Microsoft eyes slice of Raspberry Pi with free Windows 10 sprinkled on top

Keen to meet your makers, eh?

Raspberry Pi 2 mainboard

Microsoft is working on a free version of Windows 10 that runs on Brit-tech hit Raspberry Pi in order to penetrate the Internet of Things (IoT).

Microsoft and the Raspberry Pi Foundation have been collaborating for six months on the joint project, which emerged early on Monday.

Windows 10 will run on the latest version of the ARM-based chipset, Raspberry Pi 2, which went on sale this morning.

Raspberry Pi 2 turbocharges the earlier motherboard, with a claimed performance boost of six times over previous models – thanks to the new Broadcom BCM2836 system-on-chip. This is a VideoCore IV GPU with four 900MHz ARMv7 Cortex-A7 cores. Also, there’s twice as much memory: 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM.

Windows 10 for the Raspberry Pi 2 will be available for free for the maker community via Microsoft’s Windows Developer Program for IoT.

“We see the maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing,” Microsoft said here.

Microsoft expects to expose Pi heads to its development tools in the process.

Redmond has always been keen to get its tools and runtimes into the hands of young coders, experimentalists, hobbyists and early-stage developers.

With 4.5 million Raspberry Pi sold since February 2012, and 200,000 units of the credit-card-sized unit selling a week, according to project founder Eben Upton, it's proving the mother of all boards among student developers, hobbyists and pioneers. You get compute power at a low price, just $35.

Microsoft last year teamed up with Intel and hardware maker CircuitCo on Sharks Cove, an Intel-Atom-based quad-core chip board running between 1.33GHz and 1.83GHz and packing 1GB of RAM. You got a Windows 8.1 image for $299.

Sharks Cove targeted hobbyists and hardware vendors with a device and a price to drive experimentation and uptake in phones tablets and SoC.

Intel, meanwhile, has tried to counter the popularity of Raspberry Pi with its Galileo board, updated last summer to run Windows.

Raspberry Pi is Microsoft’s second stab at Windows on ARM – following Windows RT on Surface slablets.

As ever, Microsoft’s challenge will be in knowing when to start charging people for Windows 10. Experimentation is one thing, but where does one go when you have to pay a licences for Windows 10 and the developer tools for commercial use?

Linux seemingly is the answer: Raspberry Pi 2 runs the full range of GNU/Linux distros including Canonical's Snappy Ubuntu Core – the new spin of this popular Linux distro that has been deliberately shrunk by Canonical to work in SoC in IoT. ®

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