The Raspberry Pi Foundation on Thursday released its new 8GB Raspberry Pi 4. However, the release came with an unexpected announcement too. The company announced that they will be changing the name of Raspberry Pi’s official operating system from “Raspbian” to “Raspberry Pi OS“. This seems a consequential change for all the Raspberry Pi fans who have been using the OS for years now. However, the Raspberry Pi foundation has provided a reasonable justification for taking this step.
The organization that sells the Raspberry Pi hardware would now be supporting two types of operating systems. One would be the traditional 32-bit variety which everyone already knows about and which was formerly known as Raspbian. The other one would be a new 64-bit operating system that looks mostly the same. However, this new OS allows users to use 64-bit applications that can consume more than 4GB of RAM. Both the operating systems would be called Raspberry Pi OS much like Microsofts that calls both of its 32-bit and 64-bit OS like Windows 10.
Reason for Changing the Name
People were left wondering why the Raspberry Pi Foundation decided to change the name. The answer to this question is connected to the people behind the development of the Raspberry Pi. The original Raspberry Pi was first launched in 2012 and used the first Raspbian OS. It is a 32-bit fork of Debian Linux which is specifically optimized for Raspberry Pi.
Raspbian is an open-source project developed by Peter Green and Mike Thompson. Although they work closely with the Raspberry Pi foundation, they themselves are an independent entity. The first-party “Raspbian” OS image available for download at the Raspberry Pi foundation is one of the several images that are built on the Raspberry Pi Core. The list at Raspbian.org contains several Raspbian-powered OS images. However, most of them have been out-dated.
The upcoming 64-bit OS for Raspberry Pi does not use any software from the Raspbian projects. It instead takes its “userland”, a section of the OS that floats above the Kernal, from the Debian arm64. Green explains in a post on the Raspberry Pi forums that he does not want the use of the Raspbian name for something that would not use any code from his project.
According to Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, the change of names makes sense. In a statement given to Tom’s Hardware, he described the situation in detail. He explained that when they used the word ‘Raspbian image’, they meant a Raspberry Pi OS image built using Raspbian repositories. However, people misunderstood the situation and assumed that Raspbian itself is the name of the Raspberry Pi OS. This confusion was harmless until the arrival of 64-bit OS. The new OS uses the ‘Debian arm64 ports’ and is not related to ‘Raspbian’ or ‘Raspbian64’. Thus, to clear this confusion it was necessary to officially name the Raspberry Pi OS.
What Could it Mean?
Peter also wrote at the forum that he plans to continue with the Raspbian project. It is evident that it will be used to build the 32-bit version of the Raspberry Pi OS.
Taking into consideration that many of the Raspberry Pi models including the popular Raspberry Pi Zero would never work with the 64-bit OS, the 32-bit platform would be essential for the years to come.