Raspberry Pi supplies are improving, but trust may be hard to rebuild with makers

Last December, Eben Upon provided an update about Raspberry Pi availability and expected “unlimited supplied” by H2 2023. Nine months later, Raspberry Pi supplies have indeed improved a lot. Still, some makers with small-volume production have already moved on, and are using alternative solutions. This seems especially true for products based on Raspberry Pi CM4 modules.

Tom’s Hardware has just had a fresh look at the Raspberry Pi supply situation, and based on Eben’s tweets noted an increased number of Raspberry Pi boards had shipped in 2023.

Q1 2023N/A800,000
May 2023600,000612,000
June 2023800,000788,000

Eben said June was the second-best month ever for Raspberry Pi Trading with 788,000 units sold, and July looks to breach if the one million units a month is reached, beating the March 2021 records of 814k units. He further expanded saying 119k Zero boards, of which 33k Zero 2 boards (almost entirely consumer), and estimated around 250-400ku went to the retail market. So everything looks to be good again, but the devil may be in the details.

RPIlocator creator André Costa said the following when interviewed by Tom’s Hardware:

Pi 4 looks good almost anywhere in the world. Zero 2 W not so much and CM4 is still scarce. US market is struggling to stabilize and still selling out, although not as fast as before. It was common for Pi 4 s to sell out in 10 min in the US during the height of the shortage. Now they are staying in stock 3-4 hours. Stocks in other parts of the world have been lasting days and some countries are not even selling out of Pi 4s anymore

Looking at the availability of Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 at the time of writing indeed reveals none of the shops have CM4 modules in stock.

Raspberry Pi CM4 stock August 1

The important part is that individuals should now have an easier time purchasing Raspberry Pi hardware, and Eben Upton always claimed they prioritized businesses, so the supply situation was not as bad for them, as long as by business we mean 10K monthly sales or another largish purchased amount. It’s been hard for smaller companies that only produce a few hundred units a month or even a year since it’s hard to distinguish them from hoarders that resell Raspberry Pi boards or modules with a huge markup.

So in the last few years, each time I shared a story from CNX Software for a product based on Raspberry Pi CM4, I always had comments like “good luck getting a CM4 module” on LinkedIn, and sometimes I replied to some that they could buy if they were a business. But if I remember correctly, one person used CM4 for business but only needed a few for a gateways in greenhouses and they could not get any.

More recently, I was tipped about FunctionLand which made their own RK1 system-on-module based on Rockchip RK3588 after having launched an Indiegogo campaign offering a Raspberry Pi CM4 version of their Web3 cloud-storage solution. But not more, as explained in the short video snippet below from June 2023.

YouTube video player

When Keyvan Sadeghi, Functionland CEO, says “we are all on the same boat, so no Raspberry Pi” he refers to Kubesail and Turing Pi projects that were all based on Raspberry Pi CM4 but had to move to a Rockchip RK3588 module instead because of supply issues, which culminated with the launch of pre-orders for the Turing Pi RK1 just a few days ago.

Those companies probably invested a lot of money to launch their project in 2021, never managed to get hold of Raspberry Pi modules for their products, and seem upset especially since “the Raspberry Pi Foundation makes some 400,000 Raspberry Pis every month” and none of those could reach them. So I would not expect them to design products based on Raspberry Pi hardware anytime soon, especially if Rockchip RK3588 alternatives can deliver on their promises.

I’ve also heard companies doing modules such as the Pine64 SoQuartz, Radxa CM3, or even Banana Pi BPI-CM4 got more requests than usual in the last few years. So it’s quite possible many small companies left the Raspberry Pi ecosystem looking for alternatives, and it may be hard for Raspberry Pi Trading to regain their trust considering they probably lost a chunk of money or some may have had to close.

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23 Replies to “Raspberry Pi supplies are improving, but trust may be hard to rebuild with makers”

  1. Looking at the availability of Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 at the time of writing indeed reveals a mixed bag with some models available and others not.

    Your screenshot actually shows no availability at all 😉
    You might have been confused by the “update status” column, but it’s the “In stock” that matters.

    There was some availability for some models for a couple of days before, indeed, though, but none at all right now.

    1. LoL. Yes, you’re right, I should have read it in detail instead of checking for green ticks…

  2. There are official sellers in Romania that refuse to lift the number of purchases that can be made in one account for most simple products except the one with a lot of stuff we don’t really need, like a charger or a case. They had to do it during the scarcity period and I understand that. Raspberry Pi Foundation should really try to speak to sellers about situations like this. The Pi Zero 2 W sold in about 1-2 days (they had around 30 anyway) and most of them popped up at inflated prices on sites like OLX.I just wanted another Pi Zero 2 W and the seller is actually forcing me to create another account. I guess I can wait longer or not purchase at all.

  3. Honestly, the only reason why Pi’s are hard to find are because ironically, they use way older nodes than competitors and those can still be hard-ish to find even though the leading/bleeding edge has a glut of chips.

    In any case, I really hope that the community moves past the Raspberry Pi’s as Eben Upon and the Raspberry Pi Foundation has chosen to prioritize supplying business rather than the ones that actually helped the RPi to become the success that it is today.

  4. The availability of CM4 has been very frustrating. We just recently got the BananaPI CM4 working with our Interceptor carrier board. I’ve been very pleased with it, although the GLOBAL_EN pin is not connected.

    Since Broadcom has exited the STB market, I’m guessing that there will be no Raspberry Pi CM5 anytime soon. But at this point we feel burned, and I doubt we would make a design around it.

    1. Its hard to see where Raspberry could go but Broadcom is very much a cul-de-sac.
      Ebden has just completely miss managed things and likely apart from legacy sales they will never really recover.

      1. They probably had their best sales number ever in July, so they are doing pretty good for now. I don’t think they are in a rush for a Raspberry Pi 4 / CM4 replacement, because there aren’t any platform that completely destroys it in terms of value (price/performance ratio or price/features ratio). Their main problem is availability and how they managed stocks. They pissed a lot of people with their inability to differentiate between legit (small) businesses and hoarders.

        1. Pi have been selling numbers to commercial channels but its the maker channels where its been dire.
          They just managed to get Pi4 out in shops for a month and various models are already going out of stock.
          CM4 still hasn’t had any stock.
          As for competition the 4gb Opi5 is approx same price and for performance x4-x5 Ml cpu perf with a G610 GPU and 6tops NPU that many vendors are supplying and destroying the Pi4/CM4.
          It would seem they have pissed a lot of people off as vendors seem to prefer Jetson pin compatible modules over CM4.

          I don’t think there is any rush or will be because raspberry are in a cul-de-sac.

          1. Power or even bang-for-the-buck is just a part of the attractiveness of RPI’s
            The real one is support.

            Sure, there are a tons of cheaper and more powerful Rockchip , Amlogic, Allwinner chips, but with piss-poor software support, often with random linux images hidden in unrelated forum posts or wiki.

            THAT is the strong point of the foundation, and no other “manufacturer” is even dreaming to get close to that level 🙂

  5. There are also upcoming CM4 alternatives that I don’t think have been mentioned here:

    • BananaPI CM5 (a311d2)
    • BananaPI CM2 (rk3568)
    • Radxa CM3 Plus (rk3568)
  6. Its a bit of a joke really “Now they are staying in stock 3-4 hours. Stocks in other parts of the world have been lasting days and some countries are not even selling out of Pi 4s anymore”
    How can you announce proudly that…
    I managed to get a Zero2 from Pimoroni (UK) and the stocks they are releasing must be tiny as yeah it lasted hours and its purely to give the semblance of stock but no maker project can rely on something so transitory.

  7. I saw in a Jeff Gerling video about Pi production, that in 2022 less Pi were manufactured than 2021. That’s probably why there is still missing supplies of Pis.
    I wonder if they can make 1million Pis in other months as well, then the situation would be solved

  8. “Makers” will always come crawling back to RPi. If they didn’t want to, it would already be fully stocked.

    1. Yeah, the only easier to work alternative would be a x86 PC, but they use a lot more power than Pi and usually are much bigger.
      And most ARM alternatives always have some quirks to work with, or need a lot of compiling from source for some programs

    2. I agree that most will, mostly out of name recognition. I was pleasantly surprised by how great mainline support is for amlogic (a311d at least). While I appreciate the work for the raspberry pi foundation, I’m looking forward to the day I never have to deal with a Broadcom chip.

    3. You act as if an insignificant portion of those sales is scalpers, when the reality is that the majority of the sales are scalpers buying to re-list.

  9. I think that we are seeing the start of the death of the Pi as an entity. Competition has moved on a lot and the lack of even a hint at a Pi 5 will severely damage consumer sales at least. I think that Eben has become just another greed salesman, going against all of he principles that earned his foundation charitable status, that is absurd in the light of business sales being prioritised.

    The stalled development of RK3588 inn terms of open source is slightly good news for the Pi, because if Rockchip got their finger out to provide an updated kernel/SDK and better GPU drivers than the game would already be well and truly over.

    But then Rockchip also have history of kicking themselves, so you never really know.

    1. Rockchip doesn’t need to provide better GPU drivers as Arm is collaborating with Collabora

      So any Mali shoudl eventually be 100% opensource which is great for a whole range of boards.
      Also RK3588 hasn’t stalled and is still ongoing with much already mainline.
      Again much Collabora this time working with Radxa but they have a support matrix here https://gitlab.collabora.com/hardware-enablement/rockchip-3588/notes-for-rockchip-3588/-/blob/main/mainline-status.md

  10. Do any of the alternatives which actually work, also guarantee long term production?

    It’s been super frustrating and I think rPi has really eroded their brand by not solving this issue more quickly. Every other Covid shortage seems resolved, so it comes across right or wrong as not having a sense of urgency.

    Non commercial makers feel especially discriminated against. RPi does have the remaining advantage of being easily set up by newbies, students etc, with many tutorials on projects. It counts for something..

    1. Radxa for example tells this on their Website regarding production lifetime of the RK3566/68 based compute modules:

      Radxa CM3, CM3 SODIMM will remain in production until at least Sep 2029, CM3 Industrial will remain in production until at least Sep, 2032

      But the documentation (if you even can call that scattered and scarce bits of information that way) of that products is just awful…

  11. By now I would have thought the market in general would have recognized that RK3399, RK3568, S905x, S912, S922X, A311D, not to mention a few others, all work out of the box with mainline and are in fact available. Most Pi applications that need more than 4 or 8 GB of RAM are better served with low power x86 anyway (Odroid H3+ for example).

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