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I ask because assuming someone wanted to manufacture their own (large) batch of RPi's, the major component that would be most difficult to procure is the Broadcom SoC (see here.)

If obtaining this chip isn't possible or is extremely difficult, are there alternative chips that could function (at various degrees of comparative performance or reliability) that might be substituted for it?

  • Rockchip, Allwinner, Mediatek, TI, Freescale... ideally pick something you can buy, can get the data sheet for, and for which someone sells an eval board / hackable product with usable Linux (and/or Android) sources. Sometimes the support situation may be very different for different part numbers from the same manufacturer. – Chris Stratton Nov 26 '15 at 16:46
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It isn't exclusive to the foundation, it was originally designed for set top boxes.

From Broadcom's Website:

High Definition 1080p Embedded Multimedia Applications Processor

The BCM2835 is a cost-optimized, full HD, multimedia applications processor for advanced mobile and embedded applications that require the highest levels of multimedia performance. Designed and optimized for power efficiency, BCM2835 uses Broadcom's VideoCore® IV technology to enable applications in media playback, imaging, camcorder, streaming media, graphics and 3D gaming.

  • 1
    Indeed, it is used in the Roku 2 (iirc, the only other deployed application), so I already have one a few meters from where I'm typing this. No CLI but it does have an IR control :-) – winwaed Jun 20 '12 at 19:37
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The chip is not officially propietary to the raspberry pi foundation but broadcom are notoriously hostile to working with "little guys". The raspberry pi team got special treatment due to a combination of their charitable mission and having people involved who worked for broadcom.

Also the license of the raspberry pi firmware is restricted to use on raspberry pi products, so to remain within the license you would have to make your own firmware builds from the materials broadcom provide (under NDA).

Odroid managed to secure a small batch of BCM2835 and developed a pi-compatible product called the odriod W around it but broadcom refused to sell them further chips. The reason broadcom did this is not clear, the two most plausible reasons I can think of are either that they were violating the license on the raspberry pi foundations firmware or that they couldn't commit to the volumes needed to keep broadcom interested.

Basically if you have a real plan to sell at least hundreds of thousands if not millions of units and you have the capital to back that plan up it may be worth talking to broadcom. Otherwise look elsewhere.

There are many arm based SoCs that can run linux out there with different feature and price levels. Some are more easilly obtained than others.

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