The low-cost Raspberry Pi device has seen unprecedented interest and demand since its launch. There are long waiting lists just to order one of the miniature single-board computers.
Inevitably, this level of buyer interest has kick-started a trend for copycat devices from other sources, such as the APC from VIA Technologies, a £32 bare-board computer that runs the Android platform.
However the question is whether such devices can really generate an interest in IT and developer skills among students, or are they simply a plaything for middle-aged geeks trying to recapture the home computer magic of their youth, as some cynics in the UK press have already suggested?
The Raspberry Pi has been developed by a charity organisation, with the noble aim of getting devices into the hands of as many students as possible, starting later this year.
While the models aimed at the education market will come with cases, according to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the production models currently available are bare boards to keep the cost as low as possible.
I suspect that it is the low cost that has drawn the attention of many of the enthusiastic buyers, who see the little ARM-based Linux computer as almost a throw-away purchase at just £22.
However, it appears that many potential users also regard the Raspberry Pi as little more than a cheap media player, thanks to its HDMI output and the capable GPU embedded on the processor chip.
It is this latter market that VIA seems to be aiming at with its APC, whereas the Raspberry Pi does at least include developer tools to help get users started with programming.
Critics have argued that the hardware is a distraction, and that schools and other educational establishments would better serve their students by teaching programming for existing platforms, such as Windows PCs.
However, despite coming down in price over the years, PCs are still a costly big-ticket item for schools operating on very tight budgets. Many commercial developer environments for Windows can hardly be said to be welcoming for beginners with their profusion of windows, menus and developer jargon.
Going back to the 1980s and the BBC Micro, which the Raspberry Pi developers have praised as the inspiration for their project, users simply turned the machine on and started typing - there was no complex operating system to get to learn before you could start doing something.
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