With all the new GNU/Linux boards becoming cheaper by the minute will this mean the end to Arduino and similar boards? I have seen this question being posted around the web and I would like to try and give an answer to this question.
First of all Arduino or RaspberryPI/BeagleBoard isn’t really an “if/or” question, because it is perfectly possible to run a RaspberryPI as the server controlling the many outputs and shields available through an Arduino I have tried it and it is a very powerful combination. But with all the new shields that are being developed for Rasp/Beagle it will no longer be needed to do so thus actually making it an if/or question for the future.
Perhaps what it really will come down to is how advanced people are willing to get? It is still rather much harder to configure a Debian system then to just plug in the Arduino and start hacking C code. Then again you can run Python, Java, PHP and a number of languages that you may already be familiar with on the Rasp/Beagle and I think learning the basics of GNU/Linux vs learning the basics of C should be clearly I favor of learning GNU/Linux configuration, I mean with mono you can even code the Rasp/Beagle hardware in C#! So if you are an aspiring programmer and already know one of the latter programming languages it might be easier to use a Rasp/Beagle.
Ease of implementation is where I think the Arduino shines the brightest, it has shields that do most stuff you could think of and it is very easy to hack up your own shield to do basically whatever. Then again the Rasp/Beagle has USB support giving you the option of Wifi, USB sound cards and whatever you can think of. Still hacking up a sensor and a display is very quick work on an Arduino.
To answer the original question I think that we will have the Arduino and similar boards around for quite some time, but as the support for GNU/Linux ARM boards rises and they start to get more shields and better frameworks they are going to start moving in further and further onto Arduinos turf. But then again they are very different machines and I already often feel like I am hunting rabbits with an elephant gun when I use an Arduino for something that I could just as well have used a simple ATMEGA16 or MSP430 and that feeling does not exactly go away when you use a full blown AVR computer to do that same job. Maybe if the Rasp/Beagle takes some of the Arduino turf people will go back to using more stand alone microprocessors?
//Karl-Henrik “KH” Nilsson.