The announcement that the Raspberry Pi will support free Windows 10 sent ripples of enthusiasm through the tech community this week. Between that and the 900 MHz quad-core CPU and the 1 GB of RAM the RPi 2 comes with, there are rumblings that the microcomputers will jump the gap between hobbyist use and real workplace adoption, namely in a thin client capacity. Whether or not this actually happens depends on several factors—let’s take a look.
Will it run a full version of Windows 10?
Microsoft has yet to announce whether the version of Windows 10 that runs on RPi 2 will be the same as what runs on a desktop, notebook, or Surface Pro 3. We do know that Microsoft is positioning at least four different specs for Windows 10 for IoT for use in different device categories.
The likely candidate is the “Athens” version of Windows, a trimmed-down iteration of the operating system built for x86 and ARM devices that is designed to deploy the Universal Apps (“Metro”) model. This means developers will be able to use much of the same code when developing apps across different versions and devices. This jives with the “One Windows” vision of Microsoft and its effort to claim the low power market share.
Will RPi users even want to run Windows?
The existing RPi community that Microsoft is looking to tap into built itself on community-minded open-source attitudes. Among this crowd, Windows-anything tends to be unpopular. Whichever flavor of Windows 10 runs on the RPi 2 will have to sway perception quite a bit with this crowd. Windows users were slow to adopt Metro apps for Windows 8. This may pose some resistance as well.
Can it match up against other low-cost microcomputers?
With a price point of $35-$40 the RPi 2 offers a low-cost approach to bare-bones computing. Other small motherboard-CPU combos like the ZOTAC Atom are pricier ($161) but offer more computing power—a 1.33 GHz processor and up to 4 GB of RAM—and a NVIDIA graphics card. RPi 2 fares better against a low-power model of the Intel NUC, which carries a $150 price tag, but supports up to 16 GB of RAM and a slightly more powerful 1.1 GHz Intel Celeron processor.
That said, RPi 2 has more than enough power for thin client computing. It isn’t yet clear whether Windows 10 Athens it runs will have a GUI, which may pose limitations for remote management. That will be a determining factor in this.
The best chance for RPi 2 adoption: Addressing Windows XP Embedded end of life
Even with souped-up specs and Windows 10, the RPi 2 still is more of a microcontroller than a microcomputer. The new features with give users freedom to deploy new kinds of apps in a Windows environment. While it is wildly inappropriate for any kind of mainstream desktop computing, it may see adoption as an embedded device that runs Windows 10—which will be a sought-after feature when Windows XP embedded support runs out in April 2016.
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Let us know how you’re planning to use Windows on Raspberry Pi 2 in a business capacity.