Arm invests in Raspberry Pi with an eye on IoT developers

Sheila Zabeu -

November 06, 2023

Arm Holdings plc has announced that it will make a strategic investment in Raspberry Pi by acquiring a minority stake and further extending a long-term partnership between the two companies. The aim is to strengthen collaboration to provide solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) developer community.

In Arm’s view, with the proliferation of increasingly demanding IoT and Artificial Intelligence applications, Raspberry Pi solutions can put more computing power in the hands of users. This investment consolidates a partnership between the two Cambridge (UK) based companies that has been working together since 2008 and has already resulted in Raspberry Pi products based on Arm for students, enthusiasts and developers. The latest Raspberry Pi product, the Raspberry Pi 5, was announced at the end of September, based on the Arm Cortex-A76 quad-core 64-bit 2.4 GHz processor.

“Arm and Raspberry Pi share a vision of making computing accessible to everyone, reducing the barriers to innovation and enabling anyone, anywhere to learn, experiment and create new IoT solutions,” says Paul Williamson, senior vice president and general manager of Arm’s IoT business line.

According to the executive, with the rapid growth of AI applications, platforms such as the Raspberry Pi, built on Arm technologies, are essential for driving the adoption of high-performance IoT devices around the world, allowing developers to innovate more quickly and easily. “This strategic investment is further proof of our ongoing commitment to the developer community and our partnership with Raspberry Pi,” adds Williamson.

For Eben Upton, CEO of Raspberry Pi, Arm’s technologies are fundamental to the platforms we create. “Using Arm’s technologies as the basis for our current and future products guarantees us access to the high computing performance, energy efficiency and broad software ecosystem we need to continue removing barriers to entry for everyone from students and enthusiasts to professional developers deploying commercial IoT systems at scale,” explains Upton.

This is the second wave of investment Raspberry Pi has received in a few months. Last April, Sony Semiconductor Solutions announced a minority investment to also strengthen the relationship between the two companies through a development platform for Sony AI devices aimed at the worldwide community of Raspberry Pi users.

Raspberry Pi specializes in low-cost, small devices, which is why it is popular in industrial environments and also among IoT devices. According to the company’s most recent annual report, since the launch of the first credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer in February 2012, almost 50 million computers have been sold worldwide.

Arm’s investment in Raspberry Pi may have been a response to the growing attention that RISC-V, the open set of instructions for processors, has gained in recent times, even generating a variety of development boards – boards with circuits and hardware that facilitate testing and debugging for building microcontrollers. As noted in an article on The Register website, regulatory documents presented by Arm in the run-up to its IPO stated that there are challenges ahead, including free and open source technologies, such as the RISC-V architecture. “If market support for RISC-V grows, our customers may choose this free and open source architecture over our products,” the statements said, citing potential risks to Arm’s business.

Among Arm’s big customers is Qualcomm, which has teamed up with Google and other industry players to launch the RISC-V Software Ecosystem (RISE) and help accelerate the availability of software aimed at high-performance, energy-efficient RISC-V cores. In addition, Qualcomm is sharing a legal battle with Arm over license payments.

In this scenario, it seems that Arm is moving even closer to Raspberry Pi to face competition that has the potential to grow in the coming years, given that Chinese initiatives are betting on RISC-V and that the RISC-V Foundation itself moved to Switzerland in 2019, being renamed “RISC-V International”, to get away from the trade war between the United States and China.

Arm’s IPO

Last September, Arm, controlled by Softbank, announced the initial public offering (IPO) of its shares on Nasdaq. The transaction was marked as the highest-value IPO of the year. However, with just over 20 days of public trading, Arm’s shares have experienced a rollercoaster ride.

According to an article on the  Nasdaq website, Arm’s shares lived up to the hype in the first few days of trading, jumping 35% from the IPO share price of $51. However, the honeymoon was short-lived and by mid-October it was worth less than a dollar below the IPO price, after a 25% drop.

The article points out that stocks in general were trading in a downturn at the end of September, so it may have been unfortunate timing for Arm. The good news is that the stocks associated with the chip universe have begun to reverse the situation, so the outlook for Arm is not bad for the rest of the year.

On the day this article was being edited, Arm shares were valued at $53.49.