As technology matures, it becomes cheaper. The ubiquity of the ARM processor, used in pretty much every smartphone, has dramatically dropped the price of computing. This rapid drop in the price of computing platforms at the low end has made prototyping much easier and has enabled a generation of new prototypes to be built.
Right now the proliferation of the “kitchen sink” developer boards (discussed on page 15) means it is easier than ever to prototype a product—however prototypes are not products. They’re relatively expensive, often have large form factors, and can’t be integrated into products. They’re intended to aid development, not the core of your product, no matter what some manufacturers claim.
There are some exceptions, such as companies that offer wireless modules that you can integrate into your own products. These include the Particle P0 and P1, which provide the core functionality that drives their larger development boards (in Particle’s case, their Photon board). These modules offer a way to take your prototype and create a custom PCB and reuse the code from your prototype without changes.1
The “use everywhere” boards (discussed on page 15) are cheap, low powered, and can indeed be used, if not everywhere, then many places. Even if you don’t use the boards directly in your product, you can easily adapt them to your design. For example, the design of an ESP8266 breakout board that might run you $2 can be easily ...