You see, I have been a software developer for several decades, and the last one I have been focused on security related issues (I am a Costa Rica founding member for the Association of cyber-security specialists). Then, I know how to use many different levels of computers (from very big to very small ones), and there is software I made that have been in charge of millions of financial transactions in some Banks. So I know what high-level enterprises need to work and when these needs are "exaggerated" or not well managed.I rather suspect that it was a case of making the Pi Zero as cheap as possible, then throwing it out there to see what people would do with it. The headache is that a "$5 computer" caught peoples imaginations and the rest has been continuing rounds of trying--and often failing--to keep the pipeline from factory to retailer going as smoothly as possible. The low production rate has continued to fuel the supply problem, since anyone that thinks they have future use for multiple Pi Zeros is going to keep buying them whenever possible against that future need. Manufacturing *may* catch up when enough people realize that they have a decent sized box *full* of unused Pi Zeros on hand still waiting for that future use.Well, the Zero wasn't really designed as you say, it was designed, really, to see how cheap it could be made. In fact the Zero isn't that great for IoT applications for one big reason - power consumption is too high. It cannot be battery powered for any length of time so needs to be hard wired to a power source, which makes for a bad IoT device for many use cases.
I agree that the "design goal" was "as cheap as possible", I do use a Pi Zero in a battery powered arrangement. To wit, an electronic name badge. A 4Ah "powerbank" will power a Pi Zero with a 3.5" display for about 14 hours on one charge. So...maybe not "IoT", but "wearable" anyway.
Then, I found the Raspberry machines. In fact, I was looking for something like this for a lot of years (from XX century) ... but no machine had the required specifications and price ratio until the Raspberry 2 appeared in the horizon. Now, I have several Raspberry Pi 2, 3, Zero, a Parallella 16, and a lot of Orange Pi computers in my personal laboratory performing many different tasks. For me, these machines have important purposes and when one machine stop being effective in one, then I put it in a different task. I have a big quantity of microSD cards and many versions of different operating system images.
Several months ago I found a "real-case" scenario for the Zero computer, and recently I had another one, very related with security tasks. When we talk about IoT as a concept, for me it is beyond current possibilities. This is why an Arduino it is very primitive from my perspective (my first attempt was with a Parallax machine years before the Arduino was invented). For some tasks a real computer it is needed ... but a PC it is not possible because of cost, size, heat, consumption. ARM based machines, in particular the Zero type are wonderful options. What happen is that IoT it is a very big umbrella that covers a wearable device can survive with direct solar energy and bigger computing devices that can be connected to the electricity grid. And the Zero is not the more consuming IoT device around.
In fact, my other alternative, being the Orange Pi Zero, needs some surgery and having a four core processor, consumes much more electricity than the Raspberry Pi Zero. And it is OK for the task (although the Raspberry has a better form factor).
If ... for me ... the Orange Pi Zero it is OK, it is important to observe that, after shipping, that machine cost more than $12 each unit. And after the courier cost and taxes from the US to Costa Rica, the computer go beyond $20 each unit .. and it still justify the investment. This is what I wanted to say in a previous post ... when people really need the Zero in enough quantities, the final price it is a secondary issue. But if the price go to second place, it is much better for the Foundation to have the money instead of making the shipping companies more rich, that it is what happens today. If I really need the Zero machines, I will make many tiny purchases (take into consideration that when adding international logistics this is a nightmare) ... so, at the end, the "one per customer" restriction it is useless.
And ... the CM it is not suited for this task and for many other tasks, because it needs electronic expertise not everybody have at hand. The Zero form factor it is just perfect.
Well ... a lot of words. I understand the origin and the current situation for the Zero; your explanation have been very clear and important for the availability discussion. I don't know if the Zero W will fix this, but today it doesn't seem to be the case ... no Zero, no Zero W are available, and both keep the one per customer restriction ... but let's see what happens
Have a very good day