One major factor that always kept me away from playing with one of the Intel development boards is the price. As a tinkerer, I'm not going to explore a new architecture if it costs $200. I just don't have the money for it, especially when I can get an Arduino and a knee-high stack of peripherals for $200.
Also, the Arduino brings with it a huge amount of high-quality, step-by-step tutorials that allow me to put together things that might be just beyond my comfort zone. But the announcement at Maker Faire Rome today that Intel has partnered with Arduino to produce the Galileo, a development board slated to be sold at $60, is a game changer.
The Galileo is fully Arduino compatible -- even with the shields or expansion packs that allow Arduinos to connect easily to sensors, motors, and displays. The only difference? The Galileo has a 32-bit Intel processor at its core.
Intel isn't new to making development boards; it has a long list of boards targeted for research and development. However, this is the first time it is truly focusing on the DIY community. By partnering with Arduino, it has tapped an already large and quickly growing community of enthusiastic makers eager to teach and learn. The full compatability with Arduino code and shields means there will be a rich foundation of learning material and projects from day one of the board's distribution.
Of course, Intel isn't just producing another Arduino clone. The Galileo, though fully Arduino compatible, brings a lot more to the table. Intel said in a press release:
Helping to expand native usage and capabilities beyond the Arduino shield ecosystem, the Intel development board comes standard with several computing industry standard I/O interfaces, including ACPI, PCI Express, 10/100Mb Ethernet, SD, USB 2.0 device and EHCI/OHCI USB host ports, high-speed UART, RS-232 serial port, programmable 8MB NOR flash, and a JTAG port for easy debug. Intel Galileo also brings together the benefits of the Arduino IDE with the broad software development and advanced capabilities of a full, unmodified Linux software stack into one platform, supported by a common open source tool chain.
You can envision how someone might use this system to transition smoothly from tinkering with blinking lights in the beginning stages of learning Arduino to developing a complex system for the Pentium architecture, all with a single board. This is exactly what Intel seems to have in mind. It's donating 50,000 Galileo boards to universities around the world.