Though it takes Microsoft a while to jump in on an emerging trend, the company does tend to throw its hat into the ring eventually. Despite releasing satisfactory hardware, the company was late to both the modern-day smartphone and tablet scene, hindering its success. This time around — likely thanks to the success of the Raspberry Pi — Microsoft is targeting the mini PC and development board market with the release of Sharks Cove.
Hardware like the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone are practically common lately, varying in price and power, though keeping a relatively diminutive overall size. These types of boards can be used as both development boards or cheap desktops, though using them as desktops increases the overall cost thanks to necessary accessories and peripherals. Due to those costs — and a lack of power-per-cost relative to other cheap desktop alternatives, like Chromebooks — this kind of hardware tends to work better as development boards than personal computers. Microsoft has tried its hand at dev boards before, so perhaps its feeling more confident with Sharks Cove now that it has some experience under its belt.
The 4×6-inch Cove is significantly more powerful than the Raspberry Pi, sporting a Bay Trail 1.33GHz Intel Atom CPU with integrated graphics, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, an HDMI port, 3.5mm stereo jack, and one USB 2.0 port. Microsoft is marketing Sharks Cove toward developers who intend to create drivers for Windows products, like its line of phones and tablets, but the board can also be used for Android development. To that end, the board also has power, volume, and home screen buttons, as well as a rotation lock. There are also a ton of pin headers for development purposes, diagrammed above.
Microsoft’s apostrophe-lacking board will retail for $300 — significantly more than the $35 Raspberry Pi Model B+ – but it does come with Windows 8.1 and, as Microsoft puts it, the “utilities necessary to apply it to the Sharks Cove.” Despite the Cove’s power and price difference, the RasPi will undoubtedly cast the shadow out of which Microsoft’s board will have to climb. If you’re looking for a Windows or Android development board, the Sharks Cove could be your solution. However, if you’re looking for a cheap personal computer that’s more capable than the RasPi, you can grab a Chromebrook, budget laptop, or even Intel’s NUC for cheaper or comparable prices.