ARM: “Microcontrollers Are Better Because There’s No GPL”

[Update: ARM has pulled down the video and issued a statement]

ARM has uploaded a video today entitled “Microcontrollers for Makers” showing the benefits of using micro-controller boards instead of processor based development boards such as Raspberry Pi or ODROID-C1, and their four first points are right on target, but the last one, as mentioned by Olimex, is completely wrong, and already made several people upset.

ARM_No_GPLLet’s go through the first four points:

  • Micro-controllers are more energy efficient, so if your project is requires years on a cell-coin battery, MCUs are the way to go.
  • MCU are cheaper too, now you can even get an MCU board for $1.
  • They are smaller. The chip shown on the golf ball is Kinetis KL03
  • If you need real-time I/O, processors can’t beat micro-controller, that why people decide to connect an Arduino board to their Raspberry Pi, or products like UDOO Neo are brought to market.

And now the last point: “No GPL”, “as you can keep your source code closed”. What?

First, there’s nothing that forces you to write your application with GPL code, so you can still run and release proprietary apps on Linux. Second, running code on an MCU does not systematically mean you don’t have to care of open source licenses, as for instance, ARM’s very own mbed TLS is licensed under a dual license including GPL. Finally, if they really aim to target hobbyists in that video, most of them don’t really need to care about licenses, as long as they only use their project internally, but I think many will still want to release their source code, simply because sharing your work is the default behavior for many in the makers’ community, and GPL’ed source code or other open source code is what allowed the makers’ community to prosper and grow.

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