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The ODROID-W, a Raspberry Pi compatible board

The ODROID-W, a Raspberry Pi compatible board

I think just about everyone (including me) was surprised by yesterday’s announcement from Hardkernel—better known for  boards powered by the Samsung Exynos SoC—of a Raspberry Pi compatible board called the ODROID-W. Tested against the latest NOOBS and Raspbian images the board is software compatible with the Raspberry Pi. While there have been form-factor compatible board available—like the Hummingboard—none of them have made use of the same Broadcom BCM2835 SoC as the Pi, so none of them (until now) have been software compatible.

The Raspberry Pi Model B (left) compared to the Hardkernel ODROID-W (right)

The Raspberry Pi Model B (left) compared to the Hardkernel ODROID-W (right)

Surprised because, while the Broadcom SoC is a commercial product—for instance some Roku models make use of it—there seems to have been no knowledge, at least according to forum postings, of this Raspberry Pi competitor even amongst Broadcom insiders such as James Hughes and Eben Upton.

“Still trying to figure out how they got a 2835 based device on the market without anyone at Broadcom knowing about it… including Eben.” — James Hughes

The only Raspberry Pi specific software that isn’t open source right now is the bootloader which contains the GPU “binary blobs” needed to talk to the 2835’s multimedia hardware. Although the VideoCore IV graphics core driver source has been released, there are still significant parts of the hardware that require use of an open-source shim running on the ARM11 talking to a proprietary binary blob via a communication driver in the Linux kernel.

However as the binary blob was developed by Broadcom, it’s possible that along with buying the chip Hardkernel also bought rights to use the bootloaders. So while the Raspberry Pi itself is (mostly) closed source, mainly due to the use of the Broadcom chip—and despite complaints from the Raspberry Pi community—there doesn’t seem to be any legal issue surrounding the ODROID-W.

At least at the moment, because I do wonder whether the Foundation will have anything to say about the use of the Raspberry Pi name to advertise the board. It looks like the Pi Foundation are now finally facing the same issues here that’s plagued the Arduino for so long.

The ODROID-W, a “Raspberry Pi in miniature”

The board itself has a smaller form factor than the Raspberry Pi, while keeping the HDMI, USB and CSI interfaces. It also comes with a Raspberry Pi compatible 26-pin expansion header along with extra headers for more GPIO and—interestingly—an ADC. The board also has an battery backed-up Real Time Clock (RTC) and an additional Li-Po battery connector.

The ODROID-W with its Docking Board

What the board doesn’t have is on-board Ethernet, although that can be fixed with the addition of a Docking Board—which as well as an Ethernet jack has four full sized USB hosts ports, an audio jack and a UART port for a serial console.

The ODROID-W will cost $30 and will be shipping towards the end of next month.

Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

  • Russ Nelson

    In America, we have a strict requirement for freedom of speech which trumps trademark law. If something is true, you have to be allowed to say it, even if you’re saying it about a trademark. So, Hardkernel is allowed to compare their product to the Raspberry Pi. They’re just not allowed to say that it *is* a Raspberry Pi, because that would be false, and a trademark infringement.

    • Peter VanAntwerpen

      Russ, a look at the European community register tells us that opposition was going on ….and withdrawn….but it could have meant there was no trademark (or at least not in a certain category)…and hence the infringement could be towards another (older) (and valid) trademark….

      the general rule is “run towards the office (in Alicante, Spain) first”…..I believe in the US this is different as usage is also taken into account when an older and more recent trademark are fighting?

    • Gath Gealaich

      “If something is true, you have to be allowed to say it”

      So I guess the US administration doesn’t like Snowden…because he’s lying? ;-)

    • Jim Myers

      Actually Hardkernal DOES say that the ODROID-W is a Raspberry Pi. From their own website – “ODROID-W = RPI + RTC + ADC + UPS + Battery gauge with significant Minimalism.”

      Stating that “ODROID-W = RPI” is a blatant violation of trademark law, not to mention an entirely unethical attempt at fooling people into thinking if they buy the ODROID-W they will have a fully functional Raspberry Pi, which is A BALD FACED LIE.

      • Lloyd Seaton

        Psst. I think your indignation is showing. They are not saying it IS a RPi. They’re saying it is MORE THAN a RPI. Since they don’t name which model RPi, I think their comparison is too vague to be taken seriously.

        • Jim Myers

          No indignation, just a desire for the TRUTH. It is LESS THAN a RPI UNLESS you spend $62.50 total for all the EXTRAS required to make it what they claim it is (ODROID-W = RPI + RTC + ADC + UPS + Battery gauge with significant Minimalism)

          Are you personally involved in this charlatan of a product? That would be an explanation for your unwillingness to admit that in it’s RAW FORM IT DOES NOT have ALL the functionality of the RPI.

          To be the EQUAL of the RPI requires an additional $24 in add-ons be purchased over the initial $30 price. To EQUAL what they CLAIM it is (ODROID-W = RPI + RTC + ADC + UPS + Battery gauge with significant Minimalism)
          requires an additional $32.50 in add-ons to be purchased over the initial $30 price.

          It’s not rocket science, just plain old TRUTH IN ADVERTISING that I am asking for.. In it’s raw form, it is LESS THAN A RPI.

          • Lloyd Seaton

            As I said, their comparison cannot be taken seriously because they did not say which model RPi was being compared. Neither did you. The 3 available models of RPi (Model A, Model B+ and Compute Module) span a broad range of capabilities. Likewise, Odroid-W may or may not be combined with optional expansion items. It is therefore pointless to make comparisons without properly defining the configurations being compared. BTW. I have no connection with Hardkernel and I am and have been a very satisfied RPi user since its beginnings.

          • Jim Myers

            You have nothing but EXCUSES for Hardkernel’s MISLEADING MARKETING. You should hit them up for job!

            The pictures on their website CLEARLY SHOW Raspberry Pi Model B – no mystery as to which Raspberry Pi they are comparing themselves to. In the absence of SPECIFIC TEXT stating otherwise, they INTEND FOR THE CONSUMER to equate their product with the Raspberry Pi model B.

            The comparison is not useless – the ODROID-W in it’s RAW FORM is NOT EQUAL to the Raspberry Pi model B in it’s RAW FORM that they show in EVERY PICTURE OF A RASPBERRY PI ON THEIR WEBSITE.

            I am really struggling trying to find a cogent explanation for your unwavering support of their BLATANT LYING/MISDIRECTION in their marketing campaign.

            They claim that they are EQUAL TO RPI, but they ARE NOT EQUAL to the Raspberry Pi model B that they have in EVERY PICTURE OF A RASPBERRY PI ON THEIR WEBSITE.

            No need to respond to me any further – it’s plainly visible to even a blind man that you SUPPORT LYING AND MISDIRECTION in the business community via your protracted excuse making for Hardkernel in their PATENTLY FALSE marketing campaign for the ODROID-W.

            Either you have a vested interest in the company, or you have a vested interest in defrauding people of their money to NOT GET WHAT THEY ARE BEING PROMISED.

            Either away, the position is ethically untenable.

          • Guest

            So you know how they have the standard Arduino, then they have the Arduino Nano, and the Arduino mini….

            It’s like that

          • Jim Myers

            That is NOT how they advertise their product. Why do you feel the need to PUT WORDS IN THEIR MOUTHS?

            It’s FALSE ADVERTISING.

            It’s like that.

      • Russ Nelson

        You seem very upset, so I went back and read their page again. I don’t see a claim that their product *is* a Raspberry Pi. I see a claim that their product is *better* than a Raspberry Pi. That is completely different, and not a trademark violation. People are allowed to make products that are competitive. And in their marketing, they’re allowed to say their competitor’s name so as to compare and contrast their product with the other product.

        It sounds like you don’t like that, Jim, but it’s a decision the USA made centuries ago, and has survived and thrived since then.

        • Jim Myers

          First of all, I AM a law school graduate even though I am not CURRENTLY practicing law, so I do not need your amateur internet law lessons. Second, the point that I made was that AS IT SHIPS WITHOUT ADDITIONAL COST, IT’S LESS CAPABLE THAN THE RASPBERRY PI B THAT THEY ARE COMPARING IT TO.

          This MISLEADING MARKETING could cause someone to purchase it thinking that they are getting THE EQUIVALENT CAPABILITY of a Raspberry Pi B, when THEY ARE GETTING LESS CAPABILITY without spending ADDITIONAL MONEY.

          It’s OK, though, you can DEFEND DECEPTIVE MARKETING all you want. If any of my associates buy this and then ask me why it’s not EQUIVALENT to the Raspberry Pi B, I will show them how you school a small company on the SERIOUS REPERCUSSIONS of MISLEADING MARKETING.

          ALL i ever asked was that they ADMIT the fact that the ODROID-W at $30 IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO THE RASPBERRY PI B.

          Makes no real difference to me – I have nothing to lose and only potential gains to be made by virtue of their MISLEADING MARKETING.

          Sure seems like a PRUDENT, ETHICAL COMPANY would simply revise their marketing materials BEFORE they lead to litigation. Litigation which will CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE that they were MADE AWARE OF THEIR MISLEADING MARKETING and WILLFULLY CHOSE to march blindly forth with their deception.

          • FlameSoulis

            Wow, who died and made you god? First of all, they aren’t comparing it to any specific model. Yes, they display a Model B Raspberry Pi, and that is what model most everyone sees as ‘the Raspberry Pi’. However, in text, no where does it mention a specific model; they instead refer to the product itself (a Raspberry Pi (RPi)). In what you are stating, you are pointing out they are delivering a product to someone with the capability of a model that was NEVER mentioned!

            While I twiddle the little board in my hands, I have very much wanted to see this for awhile since the mentioning of the Compute model. Speaking of, “ODROID-W is a miniature computing module which is fully compatible with all software available for the Raspberry-Pi.” I’d like to point out the mentioning of being a ‘computing module’, which I will give props that if anything, it should be compared to that. Both were designed with development in mind (rather than the other Pis’ intended target audience for educational use) and both were for products that do not need the bulk of the accessories a normal Pi would include. Both also only have 1 USB port available (also worth mentioning, all other Pis have the same ‘technical amount’ and only have more than the one and the ethernet (save for the Model A, another good comparison) due to a built in HUB). The differences are that the Compute module requires a power regulator to be included in the project whereas the ODROID-W has that and a few other tricks, again geared for its intended use of being in a wearable project or where size matters. For the project I would like to venture with, both factors are a big one for me and I have already tried to compact the regular Raspberry Pi models to as much as I can but without the truly desired results I would want.

            From all I have seen, the only entity doing the misleading was yourself to yourself. I own several standard Raspberry Pis and jumped to my online store to grab the B+ when it was announced for sale (granted, also knowing about it before that when it was accidentally leaked). The people of HardKernel tried something new and I can only hope to look forward towards what they come up with next as much as I continue to see where the Raspberry Pi Foundation goes with their next model and future plans. It’s a shame what happened happened, and HK seems pretty bummed out as well, but maybe this could give the Foundation something to look at as where the Pi could go next to continue raising funds for their educational goals and cater to their user base.
            I hope, in the end, that everyone wins.

        • Jim Myers

          After a review of their website today, I see that they have already run into trouble and the ODROID-W is destined for the trash bin of history – “Not recommended for new designs. Broadcom will not supply the SoC to Hardkernel.When the first trial batch is sold out, you can’t buy the ODROID-W anymore.
          Sorry for the inconvenience.”

  • tankslappa

    The only trademark issue I could see is with the Pi logo on the screen…
    So they had better not include that on the shipped MicroSD OS.

    Trademarks are widely abused. For example, grey/parallel imports of vehicles from other countries are often dragged into the courts purely by the manufacturer’s logo.

    • Lloyd Seaton

      Since Raspbian is approved but not owned by RPi and has been using the logo for a long time, whose logo is it?

  • Paul B

    The “new” version of the Raspberry Pi, the “+”, was disappointing in the deliberate lack of innovation. They said it was already good enough. The Pi is already over 2 years old. This is what they should have released. Good luck to the ODROID-W. I was about to buy a 3rd Pi, I’ll get one of these ODROID-W instead.

    • Lloyd Seaton

      Yes, complacency is never “good enough”. A secondary benefit of ODROID-W’s announcement is that Eben’s team might now direct some more energy towards the development of RPi 2. It seems to me that their announcement of the RPi HAT (complete with a clumsily covered-up tease of something on the way) may have been accelerated by this novel threat of competition. Imagine how they’d react if they thought an RPi compatible was being prepared with one of Broadcom’s dual-core or quad-core VideoCore SoC’s.

  • Lloyd Seaton

    The very people who probably support the principles of open hardware and open software seem to be indignant about the emergence of an open market. Without meaning to, the Raspberry Pi Foundation have created a technical phenomenon, a huge commercial success story and a market; a market that has made them prosperous. Sadly, some misconceptions have grown too. Many people seem to think that the foundation owns Raspbian and also has exclusive rights to use the Broadcom 2835 SoC. Wrong! Even the real intellectual property of the Foundation has ultimately been funded by the Raspberry Pi market, a market that goes way beyond the Cambridge clique and, indeed the UK borders. That property arguably belongs to the world-wide market. As a non-UK resident, I welcome the emergence of open competition in this market and I welcome the Odroid-W product set as a brilliantly conceived market participant.