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.NET Gadgeteer — Microsoft's Arduino Killer? 241

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 @09:04PM (#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].
    • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:07PM (#36967234)

      I would like to kill fill-in-the-blanks.

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:25PM (#36967416)

      Video killed the radio star.

      • The Buggles were wrong, of course, many Radio Stars are on the air. Radio grew 6% this year while media in general only 3%. Radio is still growing
    • When a sheep killer has ever actually killed a sheep? Well, yes, sure. A sheep is an object of consumption, isn't it?
    • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

      A couple of recent ones:

      - Compact Discs (both audio and data) - cassettes / zip disks are dead. Took a while, but it got there. Currently being threatened by lossy codecs and USB storage.

      - Digital Cameras. Can you still get Polaroid film?

    • by tgd ( 2822 )

      Guns killed suits of armor.

      Tanks beat out horses.

      Two seconds of thinking killed your point.

  • Has Microsoft produced any hardware platform in the past 20 years that was a "X killer"? All the ones I've seen tend to choke on their own drool instead of "killing" a competitor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Ribbon interface was a productivity killer, if that counts.

    • by TxRv ( 1662461 )

      The Kinect was intended as a Wii killer and did quite well, but that was only because of Microsoft embracing the maker community that found brilliant alternative uses for it. In the end it was far more effective when separated from the awful excuse for a console platform it was designed for.

      So Iguess the answer is no.

    • um.... Investor Dividend Killer? I think most of em had that distinction.

      It looks nice.. but it's expensive (compared to Ardunio) and I don't run Windows on anything.

    • by troon ( 724114 )

      Windows was an X killer?

  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:06PM (#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.

    • Re:Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hism ( 561757 ) <> on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:37PM (#36968238)
      Not the Kinect. Google libfreenect or openni_kinect-- there's plenty of people hacking at it.
    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @05:05AM (#36969776)

      The type of person who is a rabid irrational open source zealot and would cut their nose off to spite their face is the same type who will avoid anything with a Microsoft logo.


      There's plenty of people out there who are a bit more rational than that though, and just use what they like, and avoid what they don't. The plethora of open source software available on Windows should make that clear enough- clearly if people are developing FOSS for Windows, then not everyone that cares about open source is avoiding everything with a Microsoft logo, clearly some recognise that FOSS and proprietary can actually work together. Obviously you've never heard of XBMC or the FOSS Kinect projects etc. either.

      In fact frankly, most people I come across who have this hate Microsoft for everything, forever attitude, aren't even FOSS developers, they're just FOSS fanboys, groupies, whatever you want to call them. They don't actually help the FOSS community really, they just unfairly make it look like it's full of retards because they're the mouthy gobshites making it look bad, whilst the hard working, talented developers slave away creating a decent product, whatever the underlying platform.

      Besides, even if you genuinely believe that a single company can kill FOSS, then there's a lot bigger threats than Microsoft nowadays, MS is pretty much done as a threat to FOSS, I'd be more worried about the growing influence of Apple's extremely more closed and restrictive platform model, or the push by equally many other firms for everything to be run from the cloud, where you can use it, but can't fiddle with it.

      • by reiisi ( 1211052 )

        The purpose of DIY is doing it yourself.

        The whole description of this .net gageteer thing is

        Let us DIY for you!

        That's typical of the cognitive dissonance that Microsoft's marketing department displays about anything real world.

        (No, I don't count business management IT as real world. But it is as close as Microsoft seems to be able to get to the real world.)

  • Not a chance. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by decriptor ( 762523 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:11PM (#36967278) Homepage
    Simple reason: The base board looks like it needs connectors best I can tell and costs 4x as much as an arduino board. Plus I'm sure the MS board requires windows. I have an arduino because I can interface with it on different platforms and it didn't cost a ton to get into.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

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

      by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:45PM (#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 nkh ( 750837 )
      The Arduino IDE can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux. If I want to try this Gadgeteer, I would have to install Windows and some kind of Visual Studio. The last time I installed Windows it took me a whole afternoon and I wasted a lot of time fixing all kind of problems and had to fight their serial number scheme (even when my copy was valid). I'll also say that this project will most likely be killed in less than a year so I don't know why I would waste my time with it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by greed ( 112493 )

        I've dealt with .NET Micro Edition.

        We should have got the one that ran the Linux kernel and dealt with JTAG programming and all that. We spent person-months discovering just how badly .NET ME actually worked (like, unidirectional communication--from the board only). Supposedly, the newer .NET ME has that fixed... but the board in question can't be upgraded. It's .NET ME 2.5 or Linux.

        We could, however, re-flash it to Linux with the debug adapter (which we didn't buy) and a JTAG programmer (which we can fa

  • I predict that this will be as successful as Microsoft's "ipod killer". What was that thing called again?

    This looks like a solution in search of a problem. How often must someone go low-level with an arduino? It's the community, not the hardware that have made that platform successful. And if I need to do something, chances are someone has already written code to do just that, and made it available to the community. I don't have to code much of anything, only tweak what I find.

    • The lego like hardware components that can easily be connected, monitored and programmed is just such a brilliant idea. The less low-level stuff you have to resolve the more time to do something usefull you have.
  • by WorBlux ( 1751716 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:25PM (#36967404)
    I don't think so. The success of the Arduino revolves around how easy it is to get it to reach out and touch something using all the pin interfaces (turn on a LED, control a motor, use PCM to regulate your barbeque temperature. Now there does seem to be a small overlap, it's can't complete with the arduino over it's entire range of applications.
  • by DontLickJesus ( 1141027 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:26PM (#36967428) Homepage Journal
    I wont say this will kill anything, but it sounds fun. I'm betting this works with kinect soon. And, as a C# developer (along with many other langs) this sounds like a quick way to start projects to teach my kids robotics. Currently I still lean towards Mindstorm, but options are always good.
    • I wont say this will kill anything, but it sounds fun. I'm betting this works with kinect soon.

      Good call.

      Kinect Services for RDS provides sample services that use the Kinect for Windows SDK to allow access to the Depth and RGB data from a Kinect sensor. In addition to a service for a real Kinect, there is also a service for a simulated Kinect that works with the RDS simulator. A sample application is included that shows how to use a Kinect on a simulated robot to wander around and avoid obstacles.

      Kinect Services for RDS 2008 R3 []

    • I'm betting this works with kinect soon.

      It has an Ethernet and a Wifi module. Microsoft recently released a Kinect sdk [] that works with .NET, so you could write the portion of the code that uses Kinect on a PC in the same language that you use on the device and just send the data over TCP.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:28PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jerrry ( 43027 )

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

      Microsoft just announced record Q4 earnings a few weeks ago of over $17B. How, by any stretch of the phrase, are their fortunes "sagging"? I wish my own personal fortunes were sagging as badly.

      • 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.

    • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @01:49AM (#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

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:30PM (#36967462) Homepage

    Creating a devices that come with software bits that enable the control and interfacing between your programs and the hardware devices which more easily enables you to make the devices do useful things!! I can't believe no one has thought of this before!! Next thing you know, someone will tie all of these software-hardware interface modules (let's call them drivers for short) into a bundle that lets them share a common pool of resources such as processor time and memory more efficiently... "in an object oriented way" of course because unless it was done with "objects" it couldn't be new or novel could it?

    I know -- laugh me right off of slashdot right here and now. The second programming language I learned was assembly language for 8 and 16 bit Motorola processors. (The first was BASIC.) Assembly language taught me how computers really work. All this "object oriented" crap is just an abstraction that helps people see programming in ways that aren't even natural to the machines and how they run. I prefer to see things as they are, not how I want them to be. It's all still bits, bytes, signals, registers, inputs and outputs. Sure, you can imagine it's all some sort of flowers and sunshine microcosm where causes and effects happen magically just like they do in the real world (hint: the real world isn't magical either and there ain't no god that makes it all work either). It's all a bunch of tiny, tiny operations that accomplish bigger things. (Hell, for that matter, even the complex instructions in today's processors are really just simple instructions running on smaller processors... anyone ever wonder what "microcode" is and why/how we always see that "microcode update" line in the booting of Linux? Yeah... I knew and have known for a long time... long enough to chuckle to myself when the "RISC vs CISC" debates were going on. (Hint: It's ALL "RISC" now even if it wasn't in the early 8/16 bit days... it would have been horribly more difficult to scale processors to the size and performance we see today without building it all out on RISC elements.)

    It has all been done before and they will continue re-doing it again and again because new ideas are truly rare. I wonder how long it will be before we see an " -- over the internet" or an " -- on a handheld device" versions of these same things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rsclient ( 112577 )

      TL;DR: "You kids get off my lawn"

      May apologies, but you are on the wrong side of history. In the 50's, there were "old guard" programmers who wanted to program in octal instead of assembly so they could really understand what the computer was doing. In the 60's, the "old guard" fought COBOL and FORTRAN in favor of assembly so "they could understand what the computer was doing". In then 70's, they fought virtual memory because "only with real memory could you understand what the computer was doing". In t

  • Has no one heard of the Netduino - it's been out for a quite a while. Arduino-like, and programmed with .NET Micro Framework: []

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:41PM (#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 godefroi ( 52421 )

      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.

      The NETMF compiler doesn't output native code, it outputs MSIL and it's interpreted on the device (unlike, for example, the full-blown framework, where everything's JITted). Certainly this comes at a performance cost. You'd need to decide whether the tradeoffs are worth it.

      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?

      The NETMF footprint is roughly 300KB, and there are NETMF devices with only 512KB of flash. See the FEZ line as well as the Netduino. This device is a MUCH more capable platform than you'd normally see with the NETMF, with gobs and gobs o

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:42PM (#36967532)

    Look at the specs. Arduino's "beefy" MCU is 16 MHz, 8 bits. This is 72 MHz, 32 bits. Arduino draws a sub-10 uA sleep current. This thing draws a 40 mA (yes, milliamp) sleep current. They're completely different devices targeting completely different markets. Talk of "killing" Arduino is just meant to draw eyeballs and clicks.

    • by UWC ( 664779 )
      I know for certain that there are 72MHz ARM chips out there that sleep well below 40mA (I think in the 1mA range). I wonder what keeps this one so hungry while asleep. The NXP 24xx chips have been around for a while, though. They're extremely capable (USB host capabilities and such) but might lag a little behind the most recent speedy embedded ARM chips in terms of efficiency.
      • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

        Yeah, the current struck me as unreasonably high too. I even went and checked the datasheet for the processor to make sure I wasn't missing anything. My guess is that they simply figured that this device will always be powered off a wire and didn't bother giving it a particularly robust sleep mode.

  • Gadgeteer seems more like an NXT killer because it is about plugging in modules and writing the software.

    Arduino, well, that attracts a different crowd. In some ways, Arduino users seem to be a bit more simplistic. You're limited to one shield (unless you do careful planning), the IDE is very straight forward, etc.. In other ways Aduino users are more sophisticated. It is easier to build a small circuit on a breadboard and connect it to the Arduino with jumper wires. You could do that with the Gadgetee

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:46PM (#36967556)

    I'm, I guess, what you'd call a professional arduino programmer. been working exclusively for the past 2 years or so on a combo hardware/firmware project. I did the hardware design, proto testing and driver+apps coding.

    and so, I'm pretty familiar with hardware and operational costs of getting arduinos up and running from scratch (we did our own board called the LCDuino-1). when I look at the stuff mentioned in the article, I see more zeroes behind non-zeros than should be there. just too expensive for an 'arduino killer' platform or system.

    I'm not against this *because* its MS; and I'm willing to consider other alternatives, but this does not at all look cost effective, just from the pure cost of boards and parts and cables POV.

    otoh, the ARM systems (so-called 'plug computers' from marvell) are the next open-source and viable step up from arduino-land. those seagate dockstars and pogoplugs are common examples of those (and nice and hackable, too). with those, you get a full debian linux stack in there; not some mickeymouse 'other thing' inside that you now have to learn and deal with (and debug).

    for me, its arduino for the extreme low end; and small/tiny/fanless linux boxes for the "$50 and up" kind of range. they even mix well; if you need a tcp/ip presence, use one of those dockstars and have full ip-tables and all that neat protective stuff there; then have a serial link to the arduino for when it needs to report 'back up'. great way to add remote web control safely to the arduino realtime systems.

  • So, I guess then being from Microsoft, it will be just like Arduino in that all the software *and* all the hardware designs are open source, so anybody can make and sell the hardware if they feel like it. Right? And people can take the hardware designs and modify them to make special purpose version, and be able to release updates to the software tool chain to support the new hardware?

    Somehow, this just doesn't pass the giggle test.

  • by KugelKurt ( 908765 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:23PM (#36967822)

    So it's real FOSS. Cool. No matter how much corporate MS sucks, MS Research is usually great and their use of AL2 instead of some "Shared Source" license makes Gadgeteer fully Free. One could even port it away from .NET and MS could do nothing about it. AL2 even includes a royalty-free patent license.

  • Where's a good repository of GPL source code for PIC MCUs? PIC16F, PIC18F, PIC24F?

  • At $120 each, I don't think this board will replace anything but another more expensive board. That's not the Arduino.

    And with all the 10 pin ribbon connections and little in the way of direct bus access, it's a different level of hardware.

    And using .NET, who cares? But 4.5Mb of flash! Woot woot! Don't get blinded by looking at the flash.

  • For those prices, why wouldn't I just get a gumstix and run Mono on it? The gumstix boards also host ARM CPUs that are clocked 10x faster.

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:24PM (#36968166)

    "LED module ($15)"

    fuck off

  • You could run Mono on a *new* iPod Touch for the same price as just the combination of the whimpy CPU and display modules. And if you do, you'll get wifi, accelerometer, bluetooth, camera, video, Flash, battery, audio i/o, and a few switches thrown in for free. I don't understand the target market here, unless it's people who want to feel like they are low-level breadboarding gods because they plugged a ribbon cable into something and compiled some C# on it.

  • Over the last 10 years the only products Microsoft has succeeded in killing are it's own

  • is one way to go to plain AVR devices. I like plain AVR C programming. you can get a simple MCU for $2/piece, so its realistic even for things where you need 10s of MCUs (or where the MCU is most likely lost).

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker