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Raspberry Pi Manufacturer RS Group Ends License After a Decade (Updated)

The SoC From a Pi 4 Model B
(Image credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

Update August 23 01:58 PT:

RS Group and OKdo (part of the RS Group plc) have provided an update.

“RS Group and OKdo are proud to have been a pivotal part of Raspberry Pi’s success and played an active part of the Pi journey for the last 10 years. As Raspberry Pi continues on its growth journey, effective July 1st 2022, we entered a new engagement model, where RS Group is no longer a licensed manufacturer of Raspberry Pi products. Both RS Group and OKdo remain as supporters of The Raspberry Pi Foundation. Accordingly, and due to the uncertainly of supply in the market, we are no longer accepting orders on some of the core boards from Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers, all other product lines remain unchanged including the Raspberry Pi 400, Pico and RP2040 microcontroller.

RS Group and OKdo will continue to work with our end customers, other types of resellers and system integrators, to address their needs of core boards and ensure continuous growth of their business with optimum service level.

We believe that the chip market will continue to face insufficiency for some time and supply challenges won’t unwind materially until the end of 2023. We understand that this is a real challenge for customers with the pace of adoption in the smart, (I)IoT, education and maker movement continuing to increase rapidly. This unique point in time demands greater flexibility, dynamism and customer centricity to enable customers to design what they need, with a reassurance in getting it to market with a sustainable supply chain, through a brand that they can trust within a community that they can drive change in partnership with. This is why OKdo is listening and delivering on those commitments and offering a suite of products and services suit your needs. We’re welcoming all customers, existing and new, to reach out to us for help at any stage of the product design cycle. Together we can design a smarter world.”

Original Article

In 2012 there were two main manufacturers and suppliers of Raspberry Pi boards. Element14 (part of the Premier Farnell network) and RS Group (RS Components). It was these two websites which took the full brunt of the eager masses, clamouring to get hold of the $35 single board computer upon its release. But a story on XTech Nikkei states that in an email sent to users on August 10, RS Group's license to manufacture and retail Raspberry Pi ended effective from June 2022. This marks the end of a 10-year license agreement between RS Group and Raspberry Pi. 

This news has also been reported by PC Watch, which refers to an interview with Raspberry Pi founder, Eben Upton.  But we are unable to find a transcript of the interview. Following the breadcrumbs, we found a Q&A page on RS Group's Japanese site which confirms that sales will end, along with answering some general queries.

RS Group has stopped the manufacture of Raspberry Pi 4, Raspberry Pi 3 and the Raspberry Pi Pico. Hat tip to Masafumi Ohta for bringing this story to our attention.

Q: Will RS stop selling Raspberry Pi related products in the future? A: Sales will end.

RS Group Q&A Page

According to the Q&A page on RS Group's Japan site, the sale and manufacture of its licensed Raspberry Pi boards ended on July 1 2022, but this information has just come to light. The Q&A page later asks "Why did I receive a cancellation notice about this time?" to which the machine-translated response reads "We have been negotiating for supply and considering alternatives, but unfortunately we were unable to prepare it, so we have informed you of this cancellation."

The Q&A answers a query as to why it was possible to order Raspberry Pi after July 1, to which the machine translated response simply replies "It took some time to fix the website and it was ready for ordering." 

Where does this leave RS customers buying Raspberry Pi? RS has been taking back orders of Raspberry Pi for some time. The ongoing global supply issues have seen orders slip further and further into the future, many to mid-2023. Whether this is an algorithmically generated date or based on real data is unknown. But it leaves customer orders cancelled. Those that made purchases alongside their back order are left with no method of return according to the Q&A 

Q: I would like to return the peripheral parts that have already been delivered together with the main unit. A: Sorry, but we do not accept returns.

RS Group Q&A Page

In the PC Watch story, it's claimed that there will be no impact on supply for Japan or any other regions. We reached out to Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton for comment and received the following.

"RS Group has been an important partner for Raspberry Pi, manufacturing our products under licence since launch in February 2012. Our licence agreement with RS Group came to an end in June 2022, with the result that they no longer manufacture Raspberry Pi products. Other licensees, and our own production, are unaffected by this change. We continue to work with our reseller partners to supply Raspberry Pi products to the market, and anticipate no negative impact on availability."

Other licensees such as Element14 are continuing to manufacture Raspberry Pi, alongside Raspberry Pi made in Wales via Sony.

Supplies of Raspberry Pi boards are still short, leading to higher prices, purchase limits and anti-scalper requirements to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to grab a slice of Raspberry Pi.

Tom's Hardware has reached out to RS Group for comment. This story will be updated once we receive it.

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".

  • drlava
    It would be helpful to know what percentage of Pi manufacturing RS group had, and a brief comment on the reason for this stoppage (lack of profitability?) and potential impact on Pi prices.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    drlava said:
    It would be helpful to know what percentage of Pi manufacturing RS group had, and a brief comment on the reason for this stoppage (lack of profitability?) and potential impact on Pi prices.
    Yeah, I would hope than Upton would at least be able to comment on the percentage of supply they had been providing. You wouldn't get that information out of a normal commercial business, but they're not one, exactly. But he might have another reason for not disclosing the %, which is to avoid triggering more panic-buying and scalping.

    As for the reason for non-renewal, the article did end with the statement:

    "Tom's Hardware has reached out to RS Group for comment. This story will be updated once we receive it. "

    We just have to wait and see what they say about it, if anything. My guess is that it had become less profitable (or even unprofitable), in the current supply chain situation.
    Reply
  • iAndrewIz
    Correction the pi mk1 was released in 2011, I got up at 5am to get one of the first batch. And stamped on the front says 2011
    Reply
  • bit_user
    iAndrewIz said:
    Correction the pi mk1 was released in 2011, I got up at 5am to get one of the first batch. And stamped on the front says 2011
    Yeah, I didn't think it was 2012. I got mine right after they upgraded the model B to 512 MB. It came from Element 14, though I had no idea they were the actual manufacturer until I read this article.
    Reply
  • ks17041968
    drlava said:
    It would be helpful to know what percentage of Pi manufacturing RS group had, and a brief comment on the reason for this stoppage (lack of profitability?) and potential impact on Pi prices.

    They can't get the parts to manufacture Raspberry Pis (the "$35 computer"...now the $135 computer...). Now all they can do do is cancel orders and answer mails from irritated customers.

    Regardless on how many they used to supply, the current limit of 6, apparently, the supply of components. That RS Components quit has no short term effect on the market, as other supplies will happily grab any components they can get hold of to manufacture Raspberry Pis...and sell them at premium rates.

    In the long run - who knows, maybe RS Components will get a new licensing deal, once they can reliably manufacture and sell them again...at ordinary, not "premium rates".
    Reply