I remember when I first came across the Pi Zero. In fact I was where I am when I start writing this post - the salubrious surroundings of Birmingham Internal Railway Station. As today, I was then on the way back from my all too frequent visits to North London, perusing the magazines at WHSmiths at the station, when I spotted The MagPi with a free Raspberry Pi Zero on its cover. I think it was the launch day and I hadn’t known the Pi Zero was coming out. Naturally I bought a copy of the mag, and got myself a Zero. Foolishly I didn’t buy any other copies of The MagPi, as they rapidly sold out across the country.

I’ve never really understood why the Pi Zero isn’t more popular. The Pi Zero W variant (with built-in WiFi) is a more practical version of the original zero that’s now available. As of writing going for £9.30 from the usual scumbags. For the price it’s a very capable, small footprint device, with superb software and hardware support. Far more practical for and totally capable of many applications than its larger brethren.

Why do I assert that it’s not that popular? Two reasons:

  • Stock is and has always been massively constrained. As of today it’s out of stock at one of the most well-known UK Pi stores, and there’s always been and still is a limit of one Pi Zero per customer per transaction. I guess it’s not that high margin for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and if they produce as many as the market desires it’ll cannabilise sales of the more expensive options. I don’t think that’s a good reason for wasting resources and energy manufacturing and powering higher spec machines.

  • I’ve been selling a Raspberry Pi Hat, an M-Bus Master Hat (which reads certain types of metering devices), for some time now. I have both full size and micro hats. The former is the size of a Raspberry Pi Model A, and designed to be suitable for Pi As and Bs. The latter is the same size as a Zero, and designed, not surprisingly, for the Zero. (Both are hardware compatible with all Pis.) So far I have not sold a single micro M-Bus Master Hat. I don’t really understand why. The processing required to read a meter and do something useful with the output - even run a web server to expose the results - is negligible compared to the computing power available. And the Pi Zero is less than half the price of a Pi Model A or B.

What am I missing? Why is everybody in the world using more expensive, more powerful Pi models when a Zero would do?

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