This week I started working with the Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer. Being an Arduino fan and a C# programmer, I was delighted to see Microsoft bringing an open source prototyping tool to the market. It was developed at Microsoft Research Cambridge as a tool to support their own projects, in order to design and build new devices very quickly.
The hardware platform is completely solderless, so building a circuit is just a matter of plugging a few modules together with ribbon cables . The programming is done in C# using Visual Studio, so you can leverage all of its building and debugging tools to develop embedded systems. Then, you can use their Solid Works plugin to design the enclosure and print it with a 3D printer or cut it with a laser cutter and you’ve got a new device in your hands.
.NET Gadgeteer is an open-source tool, so Microsoft is not actually selling any boards. If you want a kit, you can currently get one from GHI, Sytech or Seeed. It is more expensive than Arduino (a FEZ Spider main board costs around $120 vs. $30 for an Arduino Uno) , but it is a lot more powerful (it has got a 72MHz. 32-bit ARM7 processor) and it is easier to program. But the main selling point for me is indeed the speed in which you can prototype devices. In a matter of minutes you can have a working prototype.