What Happens To Old Systems-On-A-Chip When No One Wants Them?

Quad-Core connected single-board computers with GPUs, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth got a bit cheaper last year.
(Graph loosely based on Kickstarters from the last two years)

Mobile phones are neat aren’t they? Tiny, thin, capable of driving touch-screens and your favorite app stores as fancy mobile operating systems. Today’s phones come packed with capabilities such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, GPRS, light-sensors, gyroscopes, audio, GPUs and accelerometers.

As a result of years of fierce competition, the average person now carries a super-computer in their pocket which also doubles as a cloud-connected sensor-hub.

Underneath all these whizzy sensors and features is an amazing core element: The System-On-A-Chip or SoC, a full computer composed of many different processors packed into the smallest space possible, the miracle of “Heterogeneous Computing.”

SoCs have been produced by the train-load for the last several years…which raises a question: What happens to old SoCs after they get “put out to pasture.” What happens to older versions of these components six months later when “the next-next best thing” comes out?

According to market forces, their prices drop..

Quick Poll: Raise your hand if you want an Android phone built on processing components from two years ago. Anyone? Anyone? Didn’t think so.

Now raise your hand if you want a single-board computer, quad-core with a GPU capable of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for $9? I saw a couple more hands go up for that one.

These left-over SoCs live new lives, they get stuffed into single-board computers and repurposed on the hobby market, perhaps added to drones or robots. Maybe they form the core of new low-cost educational computers to teach kids in India to learn how to code. Who knows!

Now close your eyes and imagine a growing stockpile of hundreds of millions of these components:  The guts of this year’s stellar Android phones that don’t get sold gathering dust in boxes someplace in China with nowhere else to go but into the next Kickstarter.

How about a $3 quad-core GPU, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth computer?

How about $1?

Enjoy the future.