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It Looks Unlikely The Improv ARM Mer-Running Board Will Ship

Hardware

Published on 07 May 2014 11:15 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware
6 Comments

Back in the middle of April I wrote about the Improv ARM development board not yet shipping and many of the early pre-order customers being frustrated that the open-source-friendly hardware still isn't shipping months past its original ship date. Since then, there's still been no official update and it looks like one of their suppliers isn't even working with them anymore.

The Improv board aimed to be an open-source ARM development board running Mer that would work with both X.Org and Wayland environments. While the specs on the hardware are on the low-end (dual-core Cortex-A7 with 1GB of RAM), the board is advertised as being able to handle KDE's Plasma Active environment. Originally the Improv was supposed to ship in January and then it turned to be March and then there's still no reports of orders shipping while the web-site still advertises a March 2014 ship date. The apparent delays for the Improv board is over lack of orders with not even having enough pre-orders to justify a manufacturing run; the last we heard is that there were less than 300 orders of this $75 open-source ARM board.

Making matters worse since we last wrote a Phoronix post on the matter over the lack of pre-order customers being able to hear any official update, is that they are apparently no longer able to work with their supplier. One of the original selling points of the Improv was that it was going to be an open and modular design with the ARM Cortex-A7 being shipped on a swappable CPU card. The design was to be based on the EOMA specification; the Embedded Open Modular Architecture. But now it's been pointed out that it doesn't look like that will even work out.

There's a post on the ARM-netbook mailing list stating, "unfortunately the team behind Improv has not come up with the order. QiMod Ltd will not be supplying them with product because the relationship with the factory has been adversely affected. we have asked them to remove all mention of EOMA from their web site." So should the sales of the Improv magically ramp up, it's unlikely they will be able to place an order, at least via their original supplier (QiMod) over a strained relationship now with them and their manufacturer.

While perhaps not as open friendly or Mer focused, other alternatives to this slow (dual-core Cortex-A7 + 1GB RAM) ARM development board for $75 is a whole range of AMD AM1 products that wouldn't cost much more, the Intel NUCs are nice and run well with Linux on a fully open stack, or within the ARM space for those wanting something performant there is the promising NVIDIA Jetson TK1. Right now the Jetson TK1 needs to use the NVIDIA binary blob for 3D acceleration but there's been Nouveau support emerging for the Tegra K1. Other Jetson TK1 / Tegra K1 support code is queued up in linux-next for hopeful support with the Linux 3.16 kernel.

We're still waiting to hear any official update on the state of the Improv board and will post if hearing anything else...

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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