> Again, you're not producing CPUs but SoCs. They are different - a SoC includes not only CPU but also RAM controller, various IO controllers, video chip, etc.
but you don't need to make a bunch of different development boards for the same SoC chip.
And if you are not hooking up the peripherals, you just need to expose the pins from the SoC, and since the different SoC chips (with different options) tend to use the same pins for the core features, this means that one board can be used for many SoC chips.
> You can't realistically take a chip designed for WiFi routers and use it to develop a media device. So you need to provide multiple variants with different SoCs and different peripheral devices.
bzzz, wrong, people absolutely take chips designed for WiFi routers and use them to develop media devices and many other things (and similarly, they take chips designed for media devices and use them in routers)
> The first pre-production versions of cars cost literally millions of dollars, even if the final versions are sub-$30k. That's the same idea - mass production lowers the price.
have you looked at how cheap it is to produce small quantities of circuit boards nowdays?
if you have the layout in your computer, you can get boards done in single digit batches for $50-100 each
the automation in manufacturing is such that you no longer have to dedicate a production line to each board design, your parts stuffer robots can handle a wide range of boards one after another (within constraints). The cost per board of this arrangement is higher than with a dedicated production line, but it's at least an order of magnitude lower than it was to produce small quantity boards even 10 years ago.
but the prices of development boards have not dropped significantly in the last 20-30 years. Manufacturers have gotten people used to the high prices of development kits, and since they mostly come out of corporate budgets, there hasn't been a lot of pressure to lower the prices as the costs have lowered. There are some exceptions (TI has had MSP430 development kits for $20 for example), but far too many manufacturers still charge thousands for their kits.