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.NET Gadgeteer — Microsoft's Arduino Killer? 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the didn't-see-this-in-the-magic-eight-ball dept.
mikejuk writes ".NET Gadgeteer is a new open source platform, from Microsoft Research, based on the use of the .NET Micro Framework. It brings with it lots of hardware modules that are backed by object oriented software. You simply buy the modules you need — switches, GPS, WiFi etc — that you need and plug them together. The software, based on C#, is also open source, and comes with classes that let you use the modules without having to go 'low level.' Is this a competitor for the Arduino?"
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.NET Gadgeteer — Microsoft's Arduino Killer?

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  • Honest question: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:04PM (#36967210)
    Can anyone think of any example when a [fill-in-the-blank-popular-or-niche-object-of-consumption] killer has ever killed a [fill-in-the-blank]? Calling something a [fill-in-the-blank] killer seems to admit at the outset that the market belongs to [fill-in-the-blank].
  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:06PM (#36967226)

    The type of person who cares about open anything is the same type who will avoid anything with a Microsoft logo. That alone will kill any potential this platform has.

  • by crusty_architect (642208) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:18PM (#36967350) Homepage
    ...in the same sentence. I think most electronics DIY'ers (including me) are Linux/C/assembler types who have no interest in supporting MS..
  • Re:little pricey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:19PM (#36967356) Homepage Journal

    little pricey to be a arduino killer

    "arduino killer" is not Microsoft's term. They call it a ".NET gadgeteer" or something.

    I love that some blogger calls it a "arduino killer" and all of a sudden, "Microsoft's trying to kill the cute little arduino".

    Arduino is cool as hell. My daughter and I have been having a blast with a couple of them that we bought just to goof off with.

    The .NET Gadgeteer also looks pretty cool, though I don't know much .NET framework. Oh well, I'll let my kid learn that stuff. I'm not that interested, but I don't see any reason why we should find anything negative in this gadgeteer thing from MS.

    You know which very rich and successful and famous high-tech company is NOT making an open platform for us to play with?

    Seriously, go back ten years, twenty. Now ask yourself which company would come out with something like this Gadgeteer first, Apple or Microsoft. Which company would lock up its handhelds behind a walled garden. Which company would stash profits for a war chest to buy its competitors instead of paying its shareholders a dividend. Sometimes things don't go the way you would suspect.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:20PM (#36967368)

    But what's the power consumption on that? Arduino became popular not just because of the cost, but because of the power consumption and ease of use as well. $120 for something that includes all sorts of stuff that I might not need is hardly a good deal.

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:28PM (#36967440)

    I don't think this will be an Arduino killer. Arduino has too big a lead, and too much traction in the DIY, hacker, and arts communities. But it will appeal to companies that do software and are looking to break into embedded hardware. They're already familiar with .NET, C#, and Visual Studio, and they won't mind paying a premium for the hardware, because it's Microsoft-backed and because they already know the dev tools.

    It might also find a home in the industrial space. Lots of manufacturing facilities have bright people who program PLC's and the like, and are quite capable of learning the tools and building simple stuff that can round out a company's automation efforts.

    I don't love Microsoft, but kudos to them for branching out creatively in an effort to shore up their sagging fortunes.

  • Re:Not a chance. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:32PM (#36967478)

    Requiring Windows is most likely not a problem. All the hassles involved in getting it to work with Windows, that would be the problem.

    Thanks but I'll stick with Arduino and leave the nightmare of jumping around Microsoft's landmines in the past.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:41PM (#36967526)

    First: MS. Hobbyists, especially the microcontroller crowd, are usually aiming for independence, interconnectivity and freedom of choices. Most microtinkerers I know were even shy to touch the Arduino because it came along with its own development tools that smelled like "you need them to do anything with it". Only after reading the specs, seeing the PCB around the chip and noticing that it is pretty much simply a (rather well designed) pimped out devboard, essentially a "standardized breadboard plus programmer", they started to use it. Many I know still refuse to use the compiler that came with it and stick with AVR Studio or GCC. Some even consider that "too far from the metal" and stick with ASM, personally I think one can overdo his zeal for independence and "feeling your controller", but I'm not judging them. Case in point, microdevs hate being locked into something. Despite the perpetual ATMEL vs PIC battle (and the self-chosen lock-in with either platform, since few people I know really want to work with both).

    Second: Microcontrollers are still very, very tiny in their specs. The average affordable model measures their clock in the Megahertz and their flash rom (program memory) in the kilobytes. And for that a .net platform? Are you kidding? Now, I might be prejudiced in this matter, but unless they somhow then turn that .net program into very tight assembler, the 72MHz Arm will feel like a 8MHz Atmel. Now, that Arm implementation MS is offering has 4500kB of flash. Pretty much, considering most AVRs still measure their flash ram in the single and double digit kilobytes. But will that .net compiler spit out native code? Or will a good deal of those 4.5MB be taken up by some virtual machine that then tries to run the object code? Essentially the question is, how much "work" can you push into the flash, how many instructions can you possibly put into it before you're running out of space?

    And finally: As a extension from the first point, MC developers love to tinker and toy with their gadgets. And they love expanding on them. Having a wide selection of addons is nice, but how easy is it to roll your own? In case I do not want that Ethernet expansion, can I make my own? Are the specs known? What about the legal shit, can I publish what I create without paying MS for it?

    I'd be wary to take the information provided at face value. 72MHz look far more than the measly 20-48MHz Arduino offers (depending on the board you choose). And 4.5MB certainly is far more than 128KB of flash rom. The key question is, though, how much of that rom is usable, how do the processors perform in comparison, and how easy is it to roll your own expansions.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:53PM (#36967612)

    14 .NET Gadgeteer compatible sockets

    And how about compatibility to something I dream up? Can I attach whatever I wish to it, and still continue to develop in that comfy .net environment?

    Arduino's main appeal to the microcontroller hobbyist crowd is that it offers simple access to AVRs without limiting you. Meaning, you basically get an environment that lets you use the microcontroller as if you didn't have it embedded in the Arduino platform if you so desire, but allows you to use it if you so please. How does Gadgeteer fare in comparison?

    What microcontroller is it, anyway? I can't find that information. It's an ARM7 CPU, ok, but is it a microcontroller at all? Or just the CPU and some MS-invented design around it?

    I might be extra wary when something has an MS label attached, but let me reiterate that: Arduino's appeal stems for no small reason from its openness. It's, in its bare bone, only a PCB that exposes the AVRs pins in a standardized layout. Nothing more, nothing less. You can, when you're fed up with the training wheels that their development environment is, simply hack them off and use it as a simple AVR with a PCB around that exposes the pins in a standardized layout. The crucial question is: Can you do the same with Gadgeteer?

  • The word "fortune" has several meanings. You're referring to finances, the parent was referring to well-being. The two are related but not the same.

    Microsoft may be turning record profit, but it's clearly a company in decline. Their stranglehold on operating systems is loosening as OSX gains market share and web browsers make underlying OS less relevant. Office, their cash cow, has hit the point where nobody really sees a reason to upgrade, and its features are also being commoditized by open source and lower cost software. Xbox / Kinect are the two bright spots for a company otherwise drowning in bureaucracy and searching for relevance and innovation.

    So yes, their fortunes are sagging, even as their fortune accumulates. English is funny that way.

  • Re:Not a chance. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wagnerrp (1305589) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:45PM (#36968284)
    Simple reason, it's not a direct competitor. For that quadruple price, you get a 32-bit processor at 5x the clockrate, 150x the storage, and 500x the memory. It's absurdly overkill for the kind of projects people use an Arduino for. It will allow other projects that an Arduino is not capable of. Of course it will be used for simple little things like the Arduino, and in the process lose the greatest utility of the Arduino: teaching people how to write small, efficient, purpose built code.
  • by Locutus (9039) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @12:49AM (#36968894)
    Microsoft has a history of failures and poor support once they realized they can't keep pouring millions and billions into it. Windows is the only exception so without leveraging Windows and being sure it'll continue, why would a company get into embedded hardware and software by following Microsoft down this winding road? Besides, embedded systems require long lives and Microsoft products outside of Windows do not have this. Only naive "Windows shops" would fall for this. IMO

    LoB
  • Re:little pricey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @02:24AM (#36969338) Homepage

    Yep. For less then the price of the main board of those I can get something like the Sparkfun Inventors kit [sparkfun.com] which is the sort of thing everybody should have.

    If building little arcade machines like in the article is your thing then you can get (eg.) Arduino+Gameguino [excamera.com] (again for less than the price of *just* their main board).

    comes with classes that let you use the modules without having to go 'low level.'

    Um, so does Arduino. Using a servo (or whatever) is two lines of code.

    Arduino killer? Maybe for .Net hipsters with over-rich parents...

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