The Microsoft Sharks Cove — doomed before it ships?

Sharks Cove

There is no shortage of hardware companies — large and small — that are currently trying to emulate the success of the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. Some of them will have a lot more success than others, partially due to the difficulty of differentiating their board from all the other contenders. The new Sharks Cove board — a joint venture between Microsoft, Intel and CircuitCo — doesn’t have that problem. Unfortunately it has a much worse problem, mixed messages.

Almost every single media outlet talking about the board — from Gizmodo, to Engadget to Ars Technica — lead off by a comparison with the Raspberry Pi, or worse yet the Arduino. The problem being, if you’re interested in a Raspberry Pi you’re not going to be interested in this board. Priced at almost x10 the cost of the Raspberry Pi, the Sharks Cove is not competing in the same market.

“At $299, this is a board that we believe will find a home with Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs) and hardware enthusiasts alike. That price not only covers the cost of the hardware but also includes a Windows 8.1 image and the utilities necessary to apply it to the Sharks Cove.”

Intended as a development board for both Windows and Android and (perhaps more properly) pitched at small independent hardware companies for driver development, the Sharks Cove has an Intel Atom Z3735G quad-core chip with speeds from 1.33GHz to 1.83GHz, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage, and a MicroSD card slot.

Simplifying Hardware Development for Windows Platforms

Viraf Gandhi and Peter Wieland talking about the Sharks Cove at the Microsoft //build conference in April

This is not a Raspberry Pi competitor, it’s anything but. Unfortunately the overly eager addition of the throw-away phrase “and hardware enthusiasts” in the press release — presumably to encourage people to write about the new board — may well have done far more damage to Microsoft’s reputation than the additional press will warrant. Because nobody is going to pay $300 for a board that’s being pitched head-to-head with the Raspberry Pi, and that’s exactly what the press have done to Sharks Cove, and in the process they’ve cast Microsoft as crazy to try.

Previewed at Microsoft’s //build conference back in April, the Sharks Cove is now available for pre-order and costs $299.

18 thoughts on “The Microsoft Sharks Cove — doomed before it ships?

  1. David Mc says:

    Hmmm, I could put a shark in my humanoid then?
    If this will run the software my robots use, then it might be the right brain my humanoids and android need.
    It needs to handle servos, MP3s, speech recognition, be able to talk, and see with a web cam.

    1. John Wayne says:

      Yes, but that’s not really it’s purpose. It’s purpose is to write the drivers necessary for all those components (and help develop the hardware necessary). There are plenty of low level communication options to chose from, but all of those feature points you mentioned are much higher level so you may end up having to write a driver anyway. Out of the box though it’s the same as any other SoC or dev board out there. You have to write the software to do anything you want.

      You could do all of the above with an Arduino Mega. There are shields to do everything you require. At the very least you can get a Pi and drive those same shields as long as they are 3.3v tolerant or if you use a level shifter.

      1. David Mc says:

        It will run Windows 8, so it should run the software I already use for my robots.

  2. The Microsoft Sharks Cove — doomed before it ships? ianlee74 says:

    Shame on the press, not Microsoft. This is clearly a development/evaluation board – not a competitor to RasPi or Arduino. It is not unusual at all for development kits and evaluation boards to sell in the $300+ range. Check out the category at DigiKey. One look at the board and the wealth of components included and this is obvious to anyone that’s familiar with microcontroller development. The real story is how everyone else has it wrong and MAKE gets it right. A better title would have been “The Microsoft Sharks Cove – everyone else has it wrong.” For the intended audience, the price isn’t going to be a problem and its certainly not doomed. I’m sure it will be a valuable tool for those whom it was built.

    1. Jeff Kibuule says:

      Yeah, it looks like a dev board for Windows IoT, and no where near a Raspberry Pi or Arduino competitor. To compare Sharks Cove to those two boards is completely missing the point (heck, comparing a Raspberry Pi to an Arduino also misses the point, they have different purposes).

      Terrible article.

      1. John Wayne says:

        Can’t agree more. The two have very different purposes. Pi is a learning platform and is designed to make that task as easy as possible. The Shark is a board that will allow you to write drivers and design hardware for Windows (probably for IoT as you mentioned).

      2. Alasdair Allan says:

        That was sort of the point I was making..?

        1. The Microsoft Sharks Cove — doomed before it ships? ianlee74 says:

          Yes, Alasdair. I think you got it right. I just wish the title hadn’t suggested otherwise.

  3. Tomas Diaz says:

    Even if this is not competition for the Raspberry, i think is kinda cool. Just imagine all the things that this board could do for you as David Mc said. Maybe is too much for amateur projects but i bet there is something really challenging that can be done with this board. (sorry for my english =P)

  4. RD says:

    It is MS. Soo….
    It is not cool.
    It is expensive.
    The tools are also expensive.

    For a 1/3 of the cost of the MS platform I can build a Pi that will feed my cat from a button on my iPhone, while receiving APRS data and functioning as an iGate, and run a dazzling RGB LED light show to entertain the kids. I can do all this with readily available, and open source hardware and software solutions. There are entire online communities available with which to share or swap information or ideas.

    Microsoft is on the way to becoming to software and hardware development what Radio Shack has become to electronic hobbyists – irrelevant MS is still around because they remain the 800 lbs. gorilla, not because they are innovative or make a better product.

    1. John Wayne says:

      First, did you read the article or even do some research on the board? The article is disingenuous at best and the two boards should NEVER be compared. The Shark is used for writing device drivers – it could be IoT or it could be just another WinRt driver for some peripheral that you may be creating for Windows. It’s not meant to be a hobbyist board by any means – it’s a professional driver development platform. The article should never have even mentioned the Pi in the same vein as the Shark.

  5. David Anders says:

    shame on makezine and gizmodo for not contacting intel, microsoft or circuitco, in order to get their facts straight. pretty piss poor journalism…

  6. Sean M Westcott says:

    The crazy thing is Microsoft does have a Pi alternative if you want to call it that. The Galileo

    it’s about $60 and will run Windows or Linux that is not what this is at all still looks interesting and for all it does $300 is not that much at all

  7. Revolverkiller says:

    but will this shark support frickkin laserbeams??

  8. dafoink says:

    Please change the title of this article. This computer is not meant to be competition to the Pi.

  9. Tom Magee says:

    Just got a Galileo for $65 on Ebay. Looks like it will be a fun device. This thing is just too expensive.

  10. Rahere says:

    This is the bunch who nicked 8 bytes of machine code I wrote a while back to ensure an executable file was only run once per day, which I had put into the public domain, patented it and released it as code over 100kb in size. I know it was my code because I put an NOP fingerprint into it just to see if anyone ever did that. Sharks’ Bay? Pirate Bay more like! And I daresay they’ll be after me for revenging their code…

  11. Make: Japan | MicrosoftがRaspberry Piのサポートを発表 says:

    […] WindowsのRaspberry Piへの対応からは、MicrosoftのSharks Coveボードへの疑問も生まれる。これは、MicrosoftとIntelとCircuitCoの合弁事業だ。299ドルという価格で、WindowsにもAndroidにも対応する開発ボードとして作られたものだが、実際はマーケティングの失敗によってRaspberry Piのライバルにもなれなかった。 […]

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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.

View more articles by Alasdair Allan


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