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I wonder if they will sell you more than one Raspberry Pi Zero?

The Zero is advertised as being $5, and it makes me angry every time, because it's not possible to buy it at that price.

Every Pi retailer either has a one-per-customer limit, and charges shipping, or, charges up to $15(!) per Zero if you buy more than one.

So it's essentially a $15 device being advertised as $5. I shouldn't be so annoyed about it, but I can think of so many cool uses for multiple Zeros, and I just can't get them.






This post on the forums [0] is the best answer I've read yet.

They sell the Pi Zero (W) at such a low price to promote the platform for educational and non-commercial purposes. However, the margins are so low at that price that they cannot afford to sell in bulk. They apparently do offer bulk buys (>500 [1]) at higher prices.

The few options to buy multiple are to buy kits (which basically pass that bulk pricing in the form of overpriced accessories), or at a higher price (e.g. I see $22 on Amazon), or be very patient and keep ordering.

[0] https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=198705#p1... [1] https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=201916#p1...


> However, the margins are so low at that price that they cannot afford to sell in bulk

Typically, ordering in bulk is how you _support_ low margins, by amortizing all the various fixed overheads. What I suspect you mean is 'the margins are negative, and we're hoping to make it up via attach rate.'


I don't think they're planning to make it up at all. I think the point is to make the entry price for beginners and people on low income as affordable as possible. I think people here complaining they can't order them in bulk at $5 or assuming there's some clever business scheme behind it all are kind of missing the point.

BTW has anyone here found the 'introduction video' Techcrunch mentions in the article, that they say makes such a good case for the store? The only one I can find is the music video one that really doesn't make a case for anything. Unless that's the one they mean? Confused.


Indeed. It's a loss-leader.

The aim is to pull in real people with single sales, both to grow their community and support further sales down the line of more powerful hardware.

Bulk selling these to industry for [near]-disposable application doesn't help the organisation or its aims. It also forces them up another rung of production capacity and warehousing, which is a serious expense.


I think they misspoke. I think they didn't mean bulk but really "retail" or "commercially". i.e. small number of units to large number of customers vs. large number of units to small number of customers.

If they can't afford to sell in bulk, the margins are actually negative.

Does anybody know how negative?

personally would have rather seen them priced at a value it could be bulk ordered. As many others pointed out, they are neat to build multi node projects or prototypes of doodles with.


Actually, the better answer is the part of your [0] reference that you didn't copy:

"* In effect, since the Zero(W) would cannibalise sales from the other models, we lose the profit margin we would make on the P3. Cannot afford to do that in quantity."

Or, more specifically, their intent is to undercut any manufacturer that would want to make a very low cost board at a sustainable profit margin to prevent one from taking hold.

You can buy as many Orange Pi Zero's (with WiFi) as you want, any day of the year for $12.76 (the price goes even down slightly if you buy more than one) [1].

[0] https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=198705#p1... [1] https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/New-Orange-Pi-Zero-...


Although this may work in general, it hurts the very purpose of the Pi.

I have an open source project I've been working on for some time, it's based around the Pi Zero W, however, here in the UK it's practically impossible to get more than one Zero W unless you order individually from each site and pay shipping individually for each. Even then, you'll be paying at least £12+shipping per unit. It's wasteful and needless to do all this individual shipping.

Is not just a case of buying individually until I can get all the Pis I need, because once I release, if users have the same issues getting the hardware, the project is pointless.

For now the project is sitting on a shelf until I find an alternative platform or Pi stops this 1 unit per customer "shortage".


The purpose of the Pi is to get kids a computer they can play with.

I struggle to see how your inability to buy lots of Pis disagrees with that.


> The purpose of the Pi is to get kids a computer they can play with.

Where did you get that idea? From the raspberry pi website:

> Our mission is to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world.


Yes, that is their tagline. Take a look at their strategy document[0] if you want to understand why the parent's interpretation is more accurate.

[0]: https://static.raspberrypi.org/files/about/RaspberryPiFounda...


Just curious: what is the use case where the Pi Zero W is better than, say, an ESP8266 as in the Wemos/Lolin D1 mini board? Those you can actually buy in bulk for $4.

From my point of view, the fragility of having to deal with a microSD card makes a Pi-like solution a complete non-starter if you want to scale.


The Pi Zero W can run a full Linux stack. The ESP8266 is essentially a fancy microcontroller. They aren't really comparable solutions, though they can certainly do some of the same tasks.

I know the difference between the stacks, but what I'm asking specifically about the Zero is, when do you

(need the additional benefits of a full Linux stack) && (the modest hardware of the Pi Zero W is enough) && (are shipping stuff at scale yet can live with the flakyness of microSD)?


You don't need to ship stuff at scale in order to make sensible use of more than one board.

So assuming they are selling the zero at cost or a loss, why?

This thread just shows how confusing the situation is, and it isn't even clear to me that it helps in promoting the education side, further it damages the brand and puts people off buying.

Why not have a school and student channel, so that they can buy at $5. And then sell it at a higher cost retail? Everyone knows where they stand, schools can bulk buy $5 zeros, which presumably they can't now. The current system just seems to be a mess.


A better way to think about it is that a Pi Zero costs $15, and that the Pi Foundation gives away free "$10 off your first Pi Zero" vouchers. It just happens that they bundle those together.

That would be a better way to advertise it. Attracts newcomers and whatnot. And doesn't feel slimy.

Yeah, and it actually makes me want to go and purchase it, because getting $15 of value for $5 sounds way better than having to go out of my way to buy $5 of value.

Shipping isn't free, I don't see how it's wrong to exclude that from the $5.

Nobody is selling to for $5. Adafruit sells it for $10 excluding shipping, ebay sellers have it listed for about $15/10 GBP with free shipping.

The price really is a lie for consumers. Maybe $5 refers to the price they sell to distributors, who need to mark it up.


Microcenter sells them for 5 dollars. This is the first unit. I happen to have one close to my home so I've been able to buy a few of them, I just buy one each time i go there. I am building retropie machines for my friends so i get them for 5 bucks. you can only buy one pi zero w for 5 dollars. but you can always come back and buy more.

It's 5 dollars for one.

If you want 2-5, it's $10 each, and if you want 6+, it's $15 each.

This is exactly my point. It's asinine to advertise it at $5. If you don't live near a physical Microcenter, it's not even $5 for one, because they charge shipping too.


I don't know any stores that include shipping on their price tags. But you're right, the Zeros are so popular that the MSRP of $5 is difficult to achieve without them being constantly sold out.

Hard to blame the market for correcting, they're worth way more than $5.


The Raspberry Pi foundation outsource all their manufacturing, as is normal in the electronics industry.

In the absence of component shortages, they could up production of Zeros by 10x or more if they wanted to. And the Zero barely has any components, so a component shortage seems unlikely.

If there's such high market demand that the product constantly sells out when offered for the MSRP, why haven't they just told their manufacturer to make the next manufacturing run much larger?


I think this is reasonably analogous:

My kids school has a "chocolate table", at their fair, you pay a pound and win chocolate, it sells out really quickly. Why don't they procure enough chocolate to meet the high demand?

Or, other are asking "why don't they price out the poor kids - there enough to seek only to the rich kids at a higher price?".


School's not procuring more chocolate because they think too much chocolate is unhealthy, so it should be kept out of the hands of children.

AFAIK it's not the RPi foundation's policy that RPi are unhealthy or that they should be kept out of the hands of children.

So I don't understand what you're trying to say with your analogy?


That's not how economics works! If they aren't making a loss at $5 then by now they have had plenty of time to ramp up production to meet demand (and save money since more production means lower costs).

The fact that they haven't strongly implies that they are selling it at a loss.


They might well be making a loss at $5!

Don't take this too harshly, but the Raspberry Pi foundation's goal is to encourage young children to learn about programming and computer science, not to subsidize the IoT hobbies of wealthy adults who already have careers in computing.


They failed at that goal. Hobbyists, yes; hobbyists building stuff with their kids, yes; kids on their own or in schools, not really.

There have been campaigns to get RPis into schools for free, but for the most part, they gather dust there.

Whatever their original goal, they might as well embrace their only successful market and stop using 'it wasn't meant for you' as an excuse for every engineering mistake they make.


Getting stuff into schools and getting them to use it is difficult. There was a push some years ago for Lego Mindstorms kit in schools. That stuff was very cool but mostly went unused - nobody knew how to use it, let alone create lessons around it.

The RPF's work is better in that it's both cheaper and a more joined up plan with both kit and teacher resources. A big part of their work is running courses for teachers but training people takes time. That goal is expectedly still ongoing. The code club stuff they do seems pretty successful too. I have no doubt they will continue what they are doing and I think it's the correct strategy.

There are plenty of other SBCs out there now (in response to RPi) which can embrace the consumer market as you desire. It sounds like you are looking for something that meets everyone's requirements; a product that makes no compromises in features or cost. I wish you luck.


I'm not in any feasible target market for them anyway because I'm happy to pay significantly more for higher spec SBCs with mainline kernel support, avoiding proprietary boot loaders/threadx and long-obsolete SoCs. The current crop of RK3399 boards are a great example of that.

But I do understand why the lower spec, lower price point devices appeal so much to hobbyists and makers. These people actually buy and use RPis in significant numbers, unlike the schoolchildren whom they keep aiming at and failing to reach. These people are the only reason for the RPi's success.

The RPi folks would be better to acknowledge and take credit for the important part they've been playing in the maker and hobbyist movement and plan their future devices on that basis.


On what basis do you think they are failing to reach school children?

Anecdata rather than a rigorously conducted survey across UK schools. It was very much the consensus amongst my teacher friends when I kicked off a discussion on the topic whilst attempting to donate a handful of them. (I had a bunch spare from doing some speed testing on them.)

Interestingly, they also felt the microbit had been much more successful and accessible, so I guess it's not a lost cause to create a product for that market.


The foundation do publish yearly reviews (not sure if they done a 2018 one yet) on their website with statistics they have gathered.

But it's interesting the microbit was considered more successful in your group. Perhaps having the name of the BBC behind it gave it more weight. Or the fact they gave them away free to younger children.


I think maybe it's also a simpler device to understand end-to-end, a bit like 8-bit micros were when I was a kid?

I think this is it. It's a simpler device which is easier to get started with. At the cost of being able to do less with it but that's a good tradeoff, in primary school at least.

> They might well be making a loss at $5!

Yeah that's what I said?


That's not how finance works either. Moving up from one level of production to another can mean acquiring new warehousing, creating new distribution channels, etc.. Can mean need to increase head count (and thus risk). Risks being left with excess product - eg if a competitor comes on the scene.

Those risks are worth it, perhaps, to achieve higher profit. But if the risks are merely to satisfy some demand for cheap gadgets, rather than meeting the educational aims of your org, then "there's more to life, let someone else do that".


> asinine

"Asinine" means "extremely stupid or foolish", and it's a very harsh term. Are you sure it's the word you were looking for?


Pretty sure Microcenter sells the Pi Zero for $5 and the Zero W for $10. Still a good deal, and I also pick one up each time I go.

Edit: oops, just checked and the Zero W is indeed on sale for $5. I think this is a recent MC discount though, and the official price is $10, which is still reasonable. It also puts the $15/ea for 2-5 units in a better perspective.


I've tried building a retropi box on a regular RPi and it was too slow for anything but original NES games.

How are you able to build these with Pi Zero?


Because it's not possible to buy it without shipping. (Fry's had them in physical stores, briefly, but quickly sold out and never got anymore.)

It would be fine if you were allowed to buy more than one, because then the cost of shipping per unit would be negligible, but you're not, you can only buy one.

So it's totally fair to include the shipping cost, because there's no alternative.


one word: Microcenter I don't live in the states, but am on a forum of people centered around various projects that (among other things) happen to make use of Pi Zero's the people who live near MC's are always saying how they just popped into their MC on the way home from work and picked up a (sometimes couple of) $5 zero W. So yeah while your experience is that $5 zeros don't exist (as is mine since in the UK there are exactly zero B&M stores that sell zeros, with the possible exception of this new RPF store - great if you're in/near Cambridge, sucks for the rest of us) the truth is that there ARE $5 Pi's available from walk-in retail outlets (in your country and possibly now mine too.)

> in the UK there are exactly zero B&M stores that sell zeros

Now there's one!


But how much is a zero(W) in the new RPF store?

Technically if you buy locally (in the same country), shipping the raspberry pi zero would fit in a small enveloped and cost probably only one dollar max. The surcharge is ridiculous.

Shipping 10 together is not even nearly as expensive as shipping one 10 times. Free shipping and constant per item shipping costs are a lie that ends up with higher costs.

But it should go down per device significantly when shipping multiple. A one per customer policy and charging for shipping is usually a sneaky way to make money on the shipping.

It raises a good question. Why can't they meet market demand? There have been shortages for years now.

Do they not want to?


> and I just can't get them.

Why can't you just pay $15 for them?


OP most certainly can, but that wasn't the point of their rant. They're criticizing retailers for their inability to sell RP Zero's in bulk at $5/unit.

There's a store near me that sells them for $5. I bought three around the holidays for various projects for $15 plus tax. No limits, as far as I know. They didn't say a thing when I asked for three.

Considering how many others are saying what you're saying, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to share what store I'm referring to.


Is a Pi Zero worth $15 to you? If so, buy one (or many). If not, don't.

High-demand cars often sell for well over sticker price. A few recent examples are the Civic Type R, the Focus RS when it was 1-3 years old, the BRZ when it came out... Demand is higher than supply, and vendors (car dealers in my car reference) are profiting from that.

I understand your outrage, but the fact that multiple vendors are selling at this high price means that the market is saying the product is worth it. If you choose the perspective that the Zero is a $15 board which you can occasionally buy for $5, you can be free from spite and simply decide if you want one. Ten bucks and a slightly different perspective is a small price for tinkering and being free from anguish!


I have 2 of them, paid $10 plus tax . I visited a microcenter and they were $5 each, I and a friend of mine bought 1 each.

Damn, there used to be a Micro Center 5 minutes from my house. Now, there's only 1 in all of CA.

It hardly unique in that sense. Flights to Europe 1 Euro (plus airport tax, and booking fees and cabin baggage). Restaurant prices in the States where you are expected to add on 15% tip. Prices advertised before tax. I guess you would need some sort of regulation to real prices up front.

I have managed to buy a Pi zero for $5 at a Micro Center store.

They were $3.14 last March. Their bigger brothers were not $22.07, though.

That's only if you buy 1

https://www.microcenter.com/product/486575/zero-w

>1 at $5.00 each

>2-5 at $14.99 each

>6+ at $19.99 each


TBH, I never realized just how strange pi pricing was until seeing that web page. 1 for $5, but if you act now, you can get two for the low price of $30! Its really strange and it makes me wonder what the real price in quantity (>500 units) is.

The Pi Zero pricing is entirely to get them into the hands of people. I seem to recall reading somewhere that volume pricing is similar to that of the Raspberry Pi Model A, which makes sense given that they are very similar just smaller.

You can bring a friend (or two) and they can buy one also. I'm in San Diego and last time I drove back from Northern California I just stopped by (it's in Tustin) with my wife and picked up 2. If you need many then of course it doesn't work. I don't think there is any rule about you going back in another day either, although I guess if you went everyday they might notice. They didn't take down any information when I bought them, they just handed them to me.

Some of the alternatives (Orange Pi Zero in particular) might be a good option... They have more powerful hardware too, AFAICT, though the mainline linux support isn't as good.

(Although looking at that now, the cheapest board is still about $9)


I got frustrated with the 1 per customer policy of Raspberry Pi Zero so I ended up bulk buying a bunch of Orange Pi Zero's from Ebay and I could not be happier. I found the support materials great, and the addition of an RJ45 port with PoE was a big plus.

See, being able to run "just Linux" is about the main selling point of RPi. It's no secret you can get boards with better performance/price or performance/power, or even build your own RPi at a lower price (not sure about zero). But RPi being just "plug and play" with familiar software platform means that I can just go and link my software skills with physical doohickeys.

Just about every other board out there is just as plug and play as the RPI.

I'm not saying that to downplay the RPI - the community it has around it is great, but long gone are the days of trying to get Linux running on a random arm board. And I should know, I have over 100 different arm machines at my place.


For the Orange Pi Zero, you can just download an Armbian SD card image much like you would with Raspbian - except that unlike Raspbian, everything but the kernel and bootloader is just stock Debian and receives updates straight from Debian. (In theory the next upcoming Debian release should work stock out-the-box, but it's a lot less user-friendly to get working.)

Eh, my experience with the orange pi zero was similar. But then I've been playing with debian on embedded boards since the NSLU2 days, so I guess I'm probably a little blind to the challenges.

Any build that doesn't start with a multimeter, a soldering iron and a TTL->USB cable is pretty straightforward...


I used the 'slug' (NSLU2) to run my first NAS. For me, that was a great introduction to setting up useful linux devices on my home network.

(A wee pang of nostagia there when I saw it mentioned)


Nice, I had two slugs. The community and Wiki were awesome. I eventually ended up adding a page about soldering a USB wireless card on to one of the unused USB headers on one. The other ran my website and an email server.

Happy days :)


> even build your own RPi at a lower price

How would you go about doing that? Any guides out there for something like this?


I'm afraid step 1 of such a guide would be "get a relevant engineering degree". I got mine on the wrong floor of the building, so all I know is that "RPi is overpriced for what it contains".

Could you provide a breakdown of what you know it should cost? That would be interesting.

They are actually $5 at microcenter in the US.

The zero WH model with Wifi and Bluetooth is sold without such limits, includes pre-soldered headers. Price is below 15€ In Germany right now and if you order 3+ (or just order more than 29€) there is free shipping. https://www.sertronics-shop.de/en/2089/raspberry-pi-zero-wh

The RPi Zero W costs 10.35E. That's more than double the advertised price (I'm ignoring shipping here). It's not a big deal though, I doubt anyone interested in "joining the club" would pass because of the extra 5-6E but the point stands. It's impossible to find the Zero W for the advertised price in many parts of the world.

I get the limitations on manufacturing, costs, margins, etc. But they could just advertise it for 10E, sell it for 10E and actually make a profit that they can use to improve the product, drop prices later, etc. If I end up paying 10E anyway I'd prefer it if the ad didn't tout "Only $5". It's misleading no matter how much I like the company who's doing it.


The raspberry pi Zero W was never priced at 5€ AFAIK.

edit: found the announcement: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-zero-w-joins-f...


Mea culpa. I was under the impression that every subsequent model is released at the same price point as the old one (similar to the normal RPi at $35).

But this means the original Zero was marketed at $5 which was still never the case where I live (10-20E was/is the norm, maybe courtesy of the shortage). This being said I bought them either way. It just felt a bit disappointing when the expectations set by the promotional material weren't met when ordering the product.


Sounds like the reaction to all promotional advertising doesn't it? Cars are advertised the same, but with the advertised versions price is like 0.7 of what they have actual version you'd want to buy because they overcharge for accessories. They might be making a loss on the 5$ version to make it up on more powerful boards sold later on and therefore using the entire device as an ad campaign.

It’s not quite the same thing. After it was launched I could never get the Zero for 5$/E. There was no upgraded model that I could buy, it was the only one and sold for up to 4 times the advertised price in my region. Today the Zero W is sold at the advertised price so no problem here.

Now imagine a fixed configuration car being sold at double the price. Car ads usually have a fineprint “config used in the ad includes bla and bla and costs this much”.

Where it is like the car industry is when they advertise fuel consumption or emissions numbers that are never achievable in real life. And in that case I feel the same.


My thinking is that it's and advert for the brand rather than the specific product to get people into the ecosystem of rpi.

Exactly! $5 Zero, $10 Zero W, still an excellent deal compared to alternatives. An ESP dev board or a Feather costs more, and those don’t run Linux.

People who complain about the cost making their projects difficult should speak up about the alternatives they’re jumping to instead.


esp32 boards(not a devboard, but rpi is not a devboard too) starts from $4.42 with free shipping on aliexpress. yet you are right - less ports, slower, less memory, no linux and a different microarchitecture.

ESP32 without a devkit is just a surface mount chip. It would be more fair to compare that with the RPi’s SoC alone.

$10 still a good price though.

The Pi Zero is at £4.66 here in the UK (so $6) including 20% VAT.

with 1 order per customer and £3 shipping fee

Buy a Pi Zero and a Pi Zero W for £17 (delivered) from Pi Hut. Bargain!

But where can you actually buy it at that price?

The price I quoted is from UK-based online stores like Pimoroni and The Pi Hut.

When they saw C.H.I.P. and other arm dev boards were coming to eat their lunch, they instituted these anti competitive practices. Think of that $10 off as a bribe so that RP Foundation can continue to dominate.

Unfortunately CHIP folded a while ago.



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