Why Allwinner's chip?
Asked why he picked Allwinner's apps processor for pcDuino, Liu cited its abundant peripherals and open structure.
Galileo, a microcontroller board based on Intel's Quark SoC X1000 apps processor, could have done similar jobs, said Liu, "but you'd need to add bridge chips."
Course work based on pcDuino is already offered in the US at the University of Colorado and the University of Florida, according to Liu. In China, a number of universities, other than Tsinghua University, have signed up. They include Zhejiang University, Hangzhou Electronics Technical University, Xi'an Telecom University, and Xidian University.
The pcDuino movement isn't limited to China, but it's certainly gaining popularity there. For example, Liu tells the story of a Shenzhen-based company that used to distribute Lenovo PCs. The company, with no prior experience of designing its own hardware, came up with its own virtual desktop, based on pcDuino. Meanwhile, it leveraged Citrix ZenServer, an open-source virtualization platform for managing cloud, server, and desktop virtual infrastructures.
Unlike in the West where makers tend to be middle-aged hobbyists with good jobs and discretionary income, makers in China are mostly university students in the hacker space, eager to launch their own companies someday. Those in China who already have their own businesses see the use of single-board computers like pcDuino as a means to "go up the food chain."
Potentially, Liu's China connection could come in handy for system designers using pcDuino but with no experience in manufacturing: "We could help facilitate cloud manufacturing."
With the number of single-board computers multiplying on the market, the race is on -- in terms of how far those boards can extend. Liu and his team have just rolled out pcDuino version 3. Listed by Liu among unique features that "only pcDuino3 can offer" today are a SATA host connector, an infrared receiver, a touch LCD screen interface, and a high-speed camera interface. Liu noted that the SATA host connector is significant so that a SATA drive can plug directly into pcDuino3. "This is perfect for network-attached storage, home media center applications."
Asked about plans beyond evangelizing pcDuino, Liu said, "I would eventually like to make a good, usable directory for open-source hardware. The open-source community is great, because there are so many solutions, developed by someone, out there, free for anyone to grab. But it's really hard to find exactly what you want among so many codes and solutions."
What each version of pcDuino comprises.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times