Also become Chaihuo’s first new member in 2015. 2015 is going to be a crazy year for Makers in China.
I got into Arduino last year while looking for interesting toys to play with my kid. Even I got a EE as part of my double CS/EE major 15 years ago, I haven't really done any electronic after college. Arduino provides a quick way to get started. Out of box with easy to use IDE, I can make stuffs entertaining my kid and myself in no time.
The experience getting into Arduino reminds me a lot of the beginning days of Linux. There are more mature commercial options out there (e.g. Solaris, IRIX, even HP/UX) and other competing open source like Net/FreeBSD. Even GNU/Hurd was making progress. But one thing Linux got was a friendly community of beginners. Going through the Arduino forum gave me the same feeling of going through Linux forum back in 95: a lot of excitement about this and willingness to help each other and share. That's defintiely one thing other communities lack. One gets "did you real the source?" reply posting anything to a BSD group.
That's almost parallel to where Arduino is today. There are no lack of better or cheaper alternative but most of them are either established embedded communities or serious lack of documentations. Not friendly at all for the beginners. Arduino gives the beginners a friendly place to get started.
And Arduino goes behind just a AVR based board. It's really a ecosystem with standardized IDE and peripherals. Most people's first critics of Arduino, especially those already in the hardware hacking, is the use of AVR and often cite 8bits and the shortage of AVR last years as problem with Arduino. However, I don't really see that as a short coming of Arduino. I just got a Leaflab's Maple which is a ARM based board with Arduino compatible pin layout and IDE. Getting my projects over to Maple from Arduino is smooth. I don't see Maple as a competitor to Arduino but a member of Arduino family.
The article is right on. There will be a lot of competitors now Arduino is on the spotlight but most of them will fail because they don't get the point of Arduino. It's not about raw CPU power or fine point of the system components, it's about community. And ones don't win the hearts of the community by belittle the community's core.
"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain