There's good news for those itching to get their hands on a Raspberry Pi. After a short delay, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has confirmed that the first batch of the US$25 computers is due to roll off the production line February 20. Shifting production eastwards caused some delay, as the cheapest available quartz crystal package selected when manufacturing was planned for the UK proved harder to source in China, where the Pi will now be manufactured. The first batch will be freighted by air to the UK, where the wee beasties should be available before the end of the month. Previously, the first batch had been slated for completion by the end of January.
The decision to send production to China is an interesting one, and gives some insight into the dilemmas faced by electronics innovators hoping to see the physical manifestations of the their designs. Though the Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF) is a UK charity, and would have preferred to see manufacturing remain in the UK, Chinese manufacturing offered three-four week turnarounds compared to the 12-14 weeks quoted by UK rivals. Further, the only UK manufacturers that were able to offer RPF a marginal profit were only able to manufacture a few hundred units per month. Plus, even the very best rates offered in the UK were $5 per unit steeper than China's - a huge hit on a $25 item.
The final nail in the coffin was the UK tax laws that charge a duty on electronics components imported into the UK for assembly there, when completed items can be imported at no charge. "Simply put, if we build the Raspberry Pi in Britain, we have to pay a lot more tax," wrote an RPF spokesperson on the foundation's blog.