Arduino gets ARMed with the Due board

Arduino, the company behind the eponymous open source hardware prototyping platform, has announced a pair of new products at the Maker Faire in New York City for the second year in a row, including one prototype device which will have those looking to make the move to ARM development salivating.

The Arduino project was founded in 2005 in Ivrea, Italy with the aim of creating a single-board microcontroller platform for students to use in the prototyping of interaction design projects. While the Arduino name - an Italian name meaning 'strong friend' - is protected, the project itself is open source and has triggered the release of dozens of spin-off and compatible designs.

While originally intended for educational use, the Arduino platform has proven popular in the hacking communities thanks to its compatibility with AVR programming software and its use of a clever IDE which abstracts much of the complexity of microcontroller programming away from the user if required.

The Arduino hardware itself has grown in capabilities over the past few years: while the original models used chips with a mere 16KB of memory and required old-fashioned nine-pin serial connectivity, the latest Arduinos include up to 256KB of memory, a reprogrammable USB interface for program uploading, serial connectivity, and power, and a whopping 54 digital input and output pins.

Announced this weekend at the Maker Faire, the company's two newest products continue the trend for adding functionality.

The Arduino Leonardo, designed to replace the current Arduino Uno mainstream board, features a simpler circuit and cheaper components to keep the cost down while adding a software driver designed to simulate a mouse, keyboard, or serial port.

More impressively, the project has announced the Arduino Due, its first ARM-based single-board development system. Although it's unlikely to take many sales away from the likes of the far more powerful BeagleBoard, the Due is an impressive beast for embedded computing projects where a 16MHz ATMega chip just isn't enough.

Featuring a 32-bit ATMEL SAM3U Cortex-M3 ARM-based processor running at 96MHz, the Arduino Due includes 256KB of flash memory, 50KB of SRAM, 5 SPI busses, 2 I2C interfaces, 5 UARTs, and 16 analogue inputs offering a 12-bit resolution.

Sadly, the Due isn't available quite yet. As it's a big departure from the project's usual fare, it is due to undergo a beta testing period with selected developers. Following that - unspecified - testing period, a Developer Edition will be sold to those who want to shape the final design, which the company has promised will go on sale before the end of the year.

The Arduino announcement at the Maker Faire also included a couple of extras: a Wi-Fi Shield, designed to plug into the top of any standard layout Arduino to connect it to a Wi-Fi network, and the code freeze of version 1.0 of the Arduino software stack. A release candidate of the new software is available now, with a final release due next month.

More information on the project's Maker Faire announcements are available on the official webpage.