Lob0426 wrote:@Jim Manley do not forget the greed factor either ... TI obviously does not want to sponsor more boards, or a lower price.
One of the things that has to be considered is the target market. The very price-sensitive education and low-end consumer market (e.g., the Pi) follows a very elastic curve, as the economists say. Lower the price a bit, and you get a roughly linear increase in demand. Keep lowering the price and demand starts to increase low-exponentially. Get the price low enough and demand becomes high-exponential (essentially, price goes into the denominator, and as it approaches zero, demand goes essentially infinite, or some fraction/multiple of the population capable of buying).
True development boards for devices that don't exist as finished products yet never sell in consumer electronics numbers, so, the development and manufacturing costs have to be spread across a much smaller number of units. At TiVo, our first-tape prototype boards cost upwards of $50,000 for one board, depending on how much hardware debugging was required (we eventually got to zero-defects on first power-up after about half a dozen model generations, which was about when the shift to Broadcom processors occurred, coincidentally). The second one was roughly half that, and so forth as production volume increased to hundreds of alpha software developer boards/boxes, when the per-box cost was under $1,000 each. The ultimate per-box cost of the consumer production versions is proprietary, but, let's just say that a profit was made on every box sold once the first few tens of thousands were produced at maquilladoras (Texas/Arizona/New Mexico adjacent Mexican border town plants). When we needed hundreds of thousands to millions of a model, the only show on the planet was China.
As has been pointed out, since many of these "development" boards don't have lower-level hardware interfaces (e.g., GPIO, SPI, etc.), it's not really clear who they're aimed at, since they're almost the cost of a low-end desktop PC with much more power. I think the market for these has been slowly getting drained away by closed, easy-to-use devices at nearly the same prices at one end, and low-end desktop systems just below those prices. The manufacturers just haven't woken up and smelled that there's no more coffee.
There is a rumor among angel investors (they handle investments too small for venture capitalists or investment banks who now won't invest much below $100 million and expect returns of tens of billions) that there are about 10,000 people who will buy one of anything because they can afford to and, sometimes, that's enough volume to get a startup going. Witness the Google Glass gizmo that upward of 6,000 people (not nearly all real developers) are going to pay Google $1,500 each for the privilege of receiving beta-at-best, known-to-be-buggy toys that no one has any idea what they will actually do with them. That is, no idea other than look dorky, and record a potential plunge to their death parachuting out of a dirigible or ramp-jumping BMX bikes between convention center building roofs.