Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

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Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:12 am

So I just spent about an hour fruitlessly trying to get a Raspberry Pi board on launch morning (and by "morning" I mean 1 AM EST :x )

The Raspberry Pi people have spent at least the last year doing guerrila marketing and getting on Slashdot umpteen times. However, when it came to actually launching the board, they decided to lie about where it would be available. They have a "store" at raspberrypi.com that they hyped up as being the place to get the board, but then when you tried to actually follow their instructions you see that they pulled a bait & switch and decided to distribute the boards through two second-rate British mom & pop type operations that obviously have never had to handle real site traffic (both sites crashed immediately upon launch).

This was obviously intended to be a UK-only release, but the Raspberry Pi people didn't bother to tell anyone outside of the UK that this was the case. Indeed, I think they know damn well that a whole bunch of people from outside the UK are interestedu, but they didn't have the common courtesy to just say that the first batch of boards are UK only. I think the people behind this project need a major lesson in honesty and proper communications. Instead of spraying hype they could have taken the time to do the launch right and be 100% up-front and honest with their customers. Especially considering that this is supposedly a non-profit organization, you think they wouldn't have issues with being honest and managing expectations better. If a for-profit company pulled a stunt like this they would be flamed mercilessly, and I feel even less pity when a supposed charity does the same thing.

While the Raspberry Pi looks like an interesting concept, if I do eventually get around to getting an ARM development board, there's a good chance I won't go with these guys. The Beagleboard project is already available and doesn't seem to have a bias against anyone from outside the UK. Interestingly, the SoC for the Raspberry Pi is made by Broadcom, an American company, and most of the major software being developed so far for the Raspberry Pi is being made in the US and Canada. However, the Raspberry Pi people don't think Americans are worthy of getting the board. There are some other projects coming up in the near future that could do what the Raspberry Pi is supposed to do and do a better job of communicating with their customers without the grandstanding and provincial attitudes that I've discovered in the Raspberry Pi project.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:38 am

Without knowing anything more about the situation, I'd just assume this was yet another case where Hanlon's Razor cuts deep.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:49 am

I recall reading on raspberrypi.org's blog that the initial 10K unit run was already mostly spoken for and that the general public shouldn't expect wide availability until later this year. Their site has been replaced by a single static page, reportedly in attempts to reduce server load, so I'm unable to locate that blog posting.

As much as I would like to have a Raspberry Pi to play with as well, it always seemed clear to me that the project's priority was UK schools first and the rest of the world second, and I have been keeping up only casually. The people behind the Pi might have made the mistake of hyping beyond their ability to deliver but they wouldn't be alone in that regard. For-profit corporations with vastly greater resources and more experience dealing with global demand mishandle product launches all the time. Given the Pi's shoestring budget and philanthropic goals, I'd be inclined to cut them a bit of slack.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:13 am

chuckula wrote:decided to distribute the boards through two second-rate British mom & pop type operations that obviously have never had to handle real site traffic (both sites crashed immediately upon launch)


While I've admittedly never heard of Premier Farnell, you can hardly call RS Components a "mom & pop type operation". This is a multinational company with bases all over the world!
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:32 am

It's an educational tool aimed at British schools and the consumer variant will be a USB thumbdrive package available in "a few months" is what I've been seeing on the news today.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:13 am

chuckula wrote:This was obviously intended to be a UK-only release, but the Raspberry Pi people didn't bother to tell anyone outside of the UK that this was the case.


If they'd intended it to be a solely UK based launch, I don't think they'd have pulled the trigger at 6am GMT. I'm in the UK and I didn't get one either (tried ordering at 6:30 but both servers for both sites had melted). They did botch the launch but, I think it was because they decided very late in the process to change the distribution model due to the popularity. I don't think being the No.1 story on both BBC News & Hacker News helped matters!

I'd have done the whole launch differently:
1. Interested parties pre-register a few weeks in advance (no need for payment)
2. After 10,000 users have registered, email everyone who's been successful to let them know and close the registration.
3. On launch day send a unique link to everyone, which takes them directly to a checkout page where address details can be confirmed and payment processed.
4. Profit

I suppose doing it the way they did whipped up far more hysteria than a pre-reg system would.

While I would have liked to get one of the initial batch (I have an immediate use for one as my Sheeva Plug's PSU popped a few weeks back), more boards will be available soon, the cases might be ready around the same time and we'll have the benefit of some real world feedback, how-tos and tips before buying.
Last edited by kyboshed on Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:16 am

Norphy wrote:
chuckula wrote:decided to distribute the boards through two second-rate British mom & pop type operations that obviously have never had to handle real site traffic (both sites crashed immediately upon launch)


While I've admittedly never heard of Premier Farnell, you can hardly call RS Components a "mom & pop type operation". This is a multinational company with bases all over the world!


RS & Farnell are both primarily B2B outfits and are both multinationals. I doubt that either are used to dealing with a high volume of consumers all arriving at 6am.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:41 am

chuckula wrote:...decided to distribute the boards through two second-rate British mom & pop type operations that obviously have never had to handle real site traffic (both sites crashed immediately upon launch).


Ah, because an American has never heard of them, they're second rate, eh? ;) They've been around for years and are well established multinational companies.

This has been so highly publicised I'm not surprised in the slightest that the sites have melted. When the HP TouchPad firesale kicked off here, almost every website that sold them fell down too. Maybe if chumps from abroad weren't spamming the heck out the sites, they wouldn't fall down ;). The number of tech things that are developed and released in the UK versus the US is so miniscule that you can hardly complain if for once, we get something first.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:02 am

Over here in the states, Farnell are basically Newark. I think they are the same company.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:07 am

Question:
Could you order by phone?

It might sound stupid but i can do this here in my country with major electronic e-tailers.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:02 pm

As others have posted, the Farnell outfit does appear to be an international distributor... not that they did a good job of handling the launch though.
Their site is finally back up, but you can't even make a pre-order for the boards any more.

Here's a quote from their current Raspberry Pi listing:
Following the successful launch of Raspberry Pi Board B this morning we've seen unpresidented SIClevels of interest in this product. Stocks from Raspberry Pi of the initial production quanitiy are limited and these have already sold out. For those of you who have already pre-ordered, we will let you know in the next few days when you can expect your delivery. We're working very closely with Raspberry Pi to ensure we meet the demand as soon as possible. We will be one of the first to have Raspberry Pi's in stock and delivered to you, so if you haven't been able to pre-order, register your interest below so we can let you know as soon as you can order again and keep you updated with the latest on availability.


From the website crash and the above quote, I take back what I said about Farnell being a Mom & Pop outfit, but I wholeheartedly stand by my finding that they are a second-rate outfit. Apparently they can't handle the UNPRESIDENTED levels of interest in this board :roll: I guess Obama won't be endorsing these boards since his main goal is to avoid being unpresidented this year.... :P
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:05 pm

srg86 wrote:Over here in the states, Farnell are basically Newark. I think they are the same company.

Ah, so that would explain why the top of the Newark website includes the words "A Premier Farnell Company" :wink:

chuckula wrote:but I wholeheartedly stand by my finding that they are a second-rate outfit. Apparently they can't handle the UNPRESIDENTED levels of interest in this board :roll:

You're upset, we get it. These sites are not Amazon.com, they don't normally need to be hardened against a crush of traffic targeting a single product at a single time, and therefore aren't. Look at the upside: with this much interest in the product, there will almost certainly be more production runs, and a lot of open-source support for the platform.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:33 pm

I hear you. You're frustrated. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and guess the folks responsible for the Rasberry Pi project realized, perhaps at the last minute, that they were in over their heads. They were likely in no way ready to handle the logistics of distribute the first 10k boards to international customers, in spite of all the run-up.

...decided to distribute the boards through two second-rate British mom & pop type operations ...


In the U.S. Farnell is commonly known is Newark Electronics. Not mom-and-pop at all. This makes a lot of sense actually. Now the Rasberry Pi guys can act as a design house, and hand logistics and distribution off to someone capable of dealing with it. In the end, the results will probably be better.

I haven't listened to the interview they gave. Based on what I've read, they maybe could have handled the PR for this decision, this change in distribution plans, a little better.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:10 pm

I'm reminded of the scene in Blow whereupon Johnny Depp and his new business partner are celebrating the sale of a ridiculously large volume of cocaine in a ridiculously small amount of time.

"I think it's fair to say you underestimated the market, Derek."

Seriously. It's a QUARTER the cost of a basic Arduino setup and much more functional for 90% of the use cases. They should have planned for an order of magnitude more on first run. Like "Add two zeroes on the end of that" more.

I could buy ten of these for the same cost as a netbook, and automate everything from my lighting to my HVAC to garage door and still have a box left for XBMC use both upstairs and down.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:30 pm

PeregrineFalcon wrote:Seriously. It's a QUARTER the cost of a basic Arduino setup and much more functional for 90% of the use cases. They should have planned for an order of magnitude more on first run. Like "Add two zeroes on the end of that" more.


Cost. They did not have the money to pay for a larger first batch from their manufacturer. They were working from pre-order money and donations.

I could buy ten of these for the same cost as a netbook, and automate everything from my lighting to my HVAC to garage door and still have a box left for XBMC use both upstairs and down.


I'm with you there. I have a couple of product ideas where I might use these -- initially it would be cheaper to pay for these boards and embed them, than to design and manufacture my own board. Makes you wonder about the markup on some of the other products that are available in the same category, doesn't it.
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Re: Raspberry Pi Launch Botched... why did they do this?

Postposted on Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:52 pm

mnecaise wrote:Cost. They did not have the money to pay for a larger first batch from their manufacturer. They were working from pre-order money and donations.


People seem to be forgetting they didn't have the money to do anymore then they did, and it was one of the reasons they changed distribution models. Farrell and RS have more capital and can get more product into the pipeline. The launch is messed up because of the change, but the RPis will have better availability in the long run.

They didn't take pre-orders, just donations.

I'm with you there. I have a couple of product ideas where I might use these -- initially it would be cheaper to pay for these boards and embed them, than to design and manufacture my own board. Makes you wonder about the markup on some of the other products that are available in the same category, doesn't it.


I gotta assume the Pi's aren't tested as rigorously as actual embedded stuff and desktop caliber boards are a low volume boutique item. I mean, embedded stuff is more like a headless server then a desktop. Ethernet is the most important port, and everything else can be stripped away.

I want to get some of these for various servers, maybe a cluster. :)

mnecaise wrote:I hear you. You're frustrated. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and guess the folks responsible for the Rasberry Pi project realized, perhaps at the last minute, that they were in over their heads. They were likely in no way ready to handle the logistics of distribute the first 10k boards to international customers, in spite of all the run-up.


They're engineers who are doing this in their spare time. They're adept at designing stuff and hitting a price point, but they're not used to dealing with logistics.

I haven't listened to the interview they gave. Based on what I've read, they maybe could have handled the PR for this decision, this change in distribution plans, a little better.


I probably would have announced the distribution model, and then delayed the launch for a couple of weeks to make sure everything was sorted out. Of course, their SO's might have made the decision for them. ;) "You said you would be done with this on this date..."

Nothing could have saved the websites though. RS or Farnell wasn't going to invest the money to beef up their web serving infrastructure to handle a one time event. Amazon has the infrastructure to hand this sort of thing, but I'm not sure how they could make that work.
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