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You have your cause and effect backwards -- Arm cores had a huge percentage of the mobile market well before anybody produced a $50 devboard, and indeed the only reason you can get a $50 devboard is because there is enough volume selling SoCs to the mobile market to bring the chip costs down.

I built my first ARM board for around $30 each, $50 is enough to have a pretty decent profit margin on top of that cost. It was a S3C4510 board running uclinux and I did it 14-15 years ago. That chip is one of the first few publicly available SoCs and no it was never used in mobile. There is no such volume.

As of writing, most of those devboards you can see on the market come with an application processor without modem. The ones that really see huge volumes are the ones with integrated modems, e.g. MTK processors with modem or the Snapdragon series, interestingly you are not going to get any of them for $50.

OTOH, the dev boards are the reason why people have been able to run desktop OSs on their ARM-based boards.

Do you know why no desktop software is optimized for Xeon Phi, SPARC, POWER9? Because almost nobody plays with them.

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