I’ve seen a few opinions like this since launch, and I’m not sure I understand them.
the Pico W is just another Pico dev board with added wifi.
I don’t think I’ve seen any Pico dev boards with on board WiFi, it usually seems to be an external add-on, or a much larger board with a specific purpose which can include an ESP32 in the same footprint. Having a small dev board with it built-in is quite nice, I think.
If you’ve used micropython on an esp32, then the experience is exactly the same with the pico w.
You say that like it’s a bad thing. Consistency across microcontroller families is great, and means less learning for moving between products. I’ve also found the C++ documentation much easier to work through as an inexperienced programmer than Espressif’s documentation. The Pimoroni guys said the RP2040 has the best documentation they’ve ever worked with, and I can understand why.
I’m not too bothered about the WiFi IC technically being more powerful. The ESP32 is commonly used as a WiFi co-processor (after all, that’s what’ the ESP range was originally designed for), and if that’s what it takes to off-load the networking then I’m not too bothered about that. The key thing for me is that I’m learning a platform which doesn’t expect me to be an embedded developer already.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of situations where an ESP32 or a Pico W will be able to do the same job equally well. I find the RP2040 easier to spin into my own board designs because it doesn’t have under-PCB solder pads, but in the same vein it might be hard for me to build a WiFi-enabled Pico board using the same chip (I’ve yet to delve into the BGA format which the CYW43439 uses). There are going to be times when an ESP32 makes more sense, but that doesn’t mean the Pico W doesn’t have its uses.
I’m not sure if a pico lipo w would actually be possible in the same form factor, with similar wifi chip, board antenna, sockets, etc
I’m not sure you’d necessarily need to use a board antenna, there are loads of chip antennas for WiFi/BT which would work just as well. Adafruit uses one on their ESP32 QT Py which saves a ton of space compared to the resonant cavity design. I assume there’d be one of those which would be appropriate for the CYW43439. The question is how happy manufacturers are to work with the BGA WiFi chip. Adafruit uses a few BGA chips already, but I don’t think I’ve seen Pimoroni use them. The other question is whether or not the manufacturer would care about certification. All of this would have been easier if RPi had used the CYW43439 as a solderable module, but I guess they weren’t interested in the complexity.