log in | register | forums
Show:
Go:
Forums
Username:

Password:

User accounts
Register new account
Forgot password
Forum stats
List of members
Search the forums

Advanced search
Recent discussions
- R-Comp releases 2 new machines at SW show (News:9)
- My former friend (PP:2)
- Elesar releases Prophet 4 (News:)
- March News Round-up (News:)
- 2 new Web browsers preview at SW Show (News:14)
- Internet integration added to RiscOSM (News:1)
- February News (News:2)
- Beebit 0.61 (Games:3)
- Simtec Hydra for sale (eBay) (Gen:1)
- RISC OS interview with Michael Grunditz (News:)
Related articles
- CES 2010: ARM hardware roundup
- A gaggle of gadgets
- Early August Update
- Wakefield 2006 show report
- It's Acorn, but not as we know them...
- 50,000 shares, Iyonix Select and a Belated Happy Birthday
- Podcast 2
- Wakefield 2001 show report
- Wakefield 2004 show report
- Wakefield 2002 show report
Latest postings RSS Feeds
RSS 2.0 | 1.0 | 0.9
Atom 0.3
Misc RDF | CDF
Site Search
 
Article archives
The Icon Bar: News and features: Alpha++
 

Alpha++

Posted by Phil Mellor on 16:10, 29/5/2003 | , , , ,
 
Alpha NotebookMicroDigital have quietly upgraded the specification of the Alpha Notebook, launched at the Wakefield show. Compare MD's current web page with the Google cache from a few days ago, and you'll notice quite a few improvements.

The display size has been increased from 13.3" to 14" (although the maximum resolution remains at 1048x768), and Firewire, PCMCIA, IrDA and S-Video TV out ports have been added. The RISC OS software bundle includes DrawWorks, MasterFile, Ovation 1 (not Pro) and TableCalc. Additional upgrades include Windows XP Pro, DVD/RW, and scroll mice. The price remains unchanged - 850 + VAT.

Initial response to the Alpha was mixed, partly because of a perceived lack of value for money. Will these big improvements swing public opinion?
 

  Alpha++
  ams (19:27 29/5/2003)
  flibble (20:56 29/5/2003)
    ams (22:07 29/5/2003)
      flibble (23:41 29/5/2003)
        nunfestishist (12:31 30/5/2003)
          NeilWB (12:53 30/5/2003)
            Kendrickfetishist (14:05 30/5/2003)
              thegman (15:24 30/5/2003)
                ams (13:23 31/5/2003)
                  pvigay (13:54 3/6/2003)
                    flibble (16:54 3/6/2003)
                      mavhc (17:02 3/6/2003)
                        Horse (17:10 3/6/2003)
                          ams (19:41 3/6/2003)
                            flibble (23:05 3/6/2003)
                              Horse (10:15 4/6/2003)
                                ams (13:34 5/6/2003)
                                  thegman (17:13 5/6/2003)
                                    ams (20:26 5/6/2003)
                                      thegman (12:09 6/6/2003)
                                        moss (17:17 6/6/2003)
                                          martyn fox (14:06 10/6/2003)
                                            martyn fox (14:07 10/6/2003)
                                              thegman (10:43 11/6/2003)
                                                martyn fox (12:35 11/6/2003)
                                                  thegman (10:17 12/6/2003)
                                                    awaynun (09:59 14/6/2003)
 
Annraoi Message #92270, posted by ams at 19:27, 29/5/2003
Member
Posts: 56
I know anything I say is going to sound *negative* (so I'll start by appologising).

The bulk of this £850 is leaving the RISC OS market (most to an uncredited clone manufacturer, some to Microsoft then (and only then) the rest to ROL/VA and presumably some too to MD (presumably for sourcing the PC portable manufacturer and removing the obligatory "Designed for Windows XP logo" from the case).

Really guys this is *not* a good idea, less damaging (though still not very desirable IMHO) is to sell Select 3/VA as a *software only* product. If people have PC laptops then they can dip in (and spend *less* leaving more likely hood that their spare cash may *someday* be spend on *real* RISC OS hardware).

Regards

Annraoi

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Peter Howkins Message #92271, posted by flibble at 20:56, 29/5/2003, in reply to message #92270
flibble

Posts: 869
ams: it would be nice if every company ran their decisions past me, that way I could get the products that exactly suited my needs at and prices that I thought cheap. But they don't and they never will, no amount of comments in web forums is gonna change their mind. If you really want to make a difference buy a controlling stake in MD and do it your way.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Annraoi Message #92272, posted by ams at 22:07, 29/5/2003, in reply to message #92271
Member
Posts: 56
I'll try be original, oh heck.... "it burns my eyes"

;)

Annraoi

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Peter Howkins Message #92273, posted by flibble at 23:41, 29/5/2003, in reply to message #92272
flibble

Posts: 869
hehe, ams a victim of my anti-rant rant :)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
nunfestishist Message #92274, posted at 12:31, 30/5/2003, in reply to message #92273
Unregistered user Considering you can buy a similar speced Toshiba laptop (much higher end, and generaly nicer) for around 500-600 quid (inc VAT) in bulks of 1, retail prices, it seems that a lot of the 999 (inv vat) is going somewhere, if not half of it. Do people really think that VRPC and RISC OS Select make up a big portion of that huge chunk? I think Microdigital would be sensible at this point to take most of that huge margin themselves, considering how much money they're likely to be spending on Omega, and how little they're getting in.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
NeilWB Message #92275, posted at 12:53, 30/5/2003, in reply to message #92274
Unregistered user IMHO AMS is correct, the Alpha laptop will only damage the RISC OS market. My God, what does it say about MD, a company supposedly at the forefront of RISC OS hardware development? Could it be a short-sighted attempt to secure a revenue stream and / or 'hurt' sales of the only new RISC OS machine actually on the market?

Neil

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Kendrickfetishist Message #92276, posted at 14:05, 30/5/2003, in reply to message #92275
Unregistered user So the Alpha is completely unrelated to RISC OS? Why is it being talked about then here?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Garry Message #92277, posted by thegman at 15:24, 30/5/2003, in reply to message #92276
Member
Posts: 65
I think MD have their heart in the right place with the Alpha, we all wanted a laptop, and they are the only ones who have attempted to give us one (RiscStation, please...).

MD probably could have taken their skills elsewhere, but did not, probably because they genuinely want to help the RO market. Their PR is woeful, but I guess they have their reasons.

The Alpha is maybe a tad pricey, but how many are they going to sell? Considering Select has less than 1000 users, and this probably represents the very keen enthusiasts, how many takers will there be for what is by even SA RPC standards, crap on a stick. Yes you get a PC too, but big whoop.

My moral is, MD are doing their best, and probably trying very, very hard to get something out the door, but unfortunatly their enthusiasm to satisfy the userbase has led to unrealistic deadlines and (for whatever reason) total silence to the press. It's also led them to try and get a laptop out the door which has not very much merit, and seems to have the split the comminity in terms of opinion on whether it's a 'good thing'.

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Annraoi Message #92278, posted by ams at 13:23, 31/5/2003, in reply to message #92277
Member
Posts: 56
Let's imagine that RiscStation had tried this, would people be so (how shall I put it) accepting ?

This product is a Windows XP home portable PC that just happens to be able to run RISC OS under emulation.

It's also telling that Windows XP is available as an "upgrade" - so in effect MD are selling Windows upgrades as well.... all in all not good I would have thought.

When people "asked" for a RISC OS portable I am pretty sure that they *meant* a machine running ARM hardware and running RISC OS native - not one where an emulation is run on a compeditors hardware and os.

... still if people are prepared to accept off MD what they wouldn't off RiscStation fine - so be it.

Rgds

Annraoi

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Paul Vigay Message #92279, posted by pvigay at 13:54, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92278

Posts: 200
I completely agree with AMS and can't help but seeing this as damaging the RISC OS market, and I will not be advising people to buy Alpha laptops.
The only way I can see of selling it as a RISC OS laptop is to somehow disable Windows on it so that you are completely unable to run Windows applications on it and CAN only boot directly into the RISC OS emulation and have NO OTHER access to Windows etc - or else people will end up moving away from RISC OS.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Peter Howkins Message #92280, posted by flibble at 16:54, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92279
flibble

Posts: 869
Paul, I think that if you offer a choice of RISC OS and windows to a user and they choose to use windows then they have made a valid choice. Besides I always thought you claimed that anyone who used RISC OS would prefer it over windows ... so it's not even an issue.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Mark Scholes Message #92281, posted by mavhc at 17:02, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92280
Member
Posts: 660
Quick, disable all your PC cards! Oh no, I'm 5 years late.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Horse Message #92282, posted at 17:10, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92281
Unregistered user There are shedloads of ARM-based portable devices out there, at least in evaluation form. Why doesn't someone port RISC OS to them? Ah, the advantages of a closed source, proprietary operating system kept on a short leash by small-time commercial interests.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Annraoi Message #92283, posted by ams at 19:41, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92282
Member
Posts: 56
Horse, it's already been done.

Acorn built not one but two portable (colour) device prototypes - Newspad (a precursor of the Tablet PC) and Stork.

The inhibition on producing a portable is *not* down to RISC OS not being open source but the cost of producing/sourcing the expensive bits of a portable device (e.g., a Case, 2.5" HDD, LCD panels, miniature keyboard and so on).

The same problem would happen if you had Linux there, the only difference is that the *risk* you'd be seen to take might appear less extreme to the bank manager asked to underwrite it (he/she'll have heard of Linux and might be more inclined to "stumpf" up the money). It's all down to setup cost - get over that and a RISC OS laptop or sub-notebook are eminently do-able.

In fact RO5 already has a fair bit of hardware abstraction built in and can handle later (faster) xScale chips like the IOP321 - RO5 would be the best candidate for such an endeavour - older RO versions could be used instead but that would limit your choice of processor to 26bit only ones (probably the now archaic ARM7500).

The big question is: does Alpha reduce the number of potential buyers of a *real ARM* based portable to such a level that the risk is too great for anyone else to take on... and that may make things so risky no one else may even try....

Rgds

Annraoi

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Peter Howkins Message #92284, posted by flibble at 23:05, 3/6/2003, in reply to message #92283
flibble

Posts: 869
ams: withuot seeming rude, can you answer me this, if it's so easy to produce a risc os portable using the wonderous HAL, why aren't there a score of choices available for me to buy right now? My guess would be the abcence of fantasy, customers and development ease, but I'd like to here what you think.

Oh also you missed the Acorn Artisan (97ish) and IMS Peanut(98ish) from the list of laptops that didn't make it. One might think there wasn't a big enough market or something.

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Horse Message #92285, posted at 10:15, 4/6/2003, in reply to message #92284
Unregistered user Actually, the reason that more companies are willing to play with open source operating systems like Linux in the embedded and small devices "space" (as opposed to proprietary operating systems like RISC OS) is precisely because they have a certain amount of freedom to try it, experiment with it, and use it without necessarily having to sign agreements with various other parties.

The barrier to entry is lower - if you have a nice device that you've either done yourself or you've acquired from some other company, and if you have the expertise, you can download the code and get started right away. One can avoid having to sign some kind of agreement (insert picture of greased palms and smiling suits), struggle with the supplier (insert picture of frustrated developer while the supplier won't let them fix their software and won't fix it to make it work on the device in question), and then decide that the whole thing just isn't viable.

It seems to me that what the RISC OS scene actually needs is more people taking a shot at adapting the operating system to new and interesting devices, rather than sitting back and listening to all the hype that has come out over the years about its supposed suitability for various applications.

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Annraoi Message #92286, posted by ams at 13:34, 5/6/2003, in reply to message #92285
Member
Posts: 56
@Flibble: My point was that Acorn had *already* produced working prototypes on *several* occasions - if you want an ARM7500FPE laptop there should be no problem (other than speed).

So why didn't it happen ? Probably a combination of the extra cost of producing a case, producing a rather small PCB and doing all of this without being absolutely certain that they'd recoup the cost.

The same applies to Castle (if they opted to do a HAL based xScale portable).

The issue is *not* a technical problem but one of confidence and monetary consideration - the technical one's already been cracked by Acorn (at least twice).

Rgds

Annraoi

Oh: And my eyes are fine now ;)

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Garry Message #92287, posted by thegman at 17:13, 5/6/2003, in reply to message #92286
Member
Posts: 65
I think we're all agreed that the market is too small to support the manufacture of a dedicated laptop for RISC OS, so why not get RISC OS onto existing hardware like netBook, HP Jornada 820 (old), and that sort of thing? Castle reckoned they would sell 500 Iyonixes by xmas last year, which gives us a stab in dark about potential sales of a laptop, which would likely be less well specififed and more expensive (as is the way with laptops).

Re Paul V's suggestion that RO be run on a Windows laptop but with Windows somehow made unusable is a bit odd IMHO, who would buy a laptop with just RISC OS rather than one which had RO and Windows, along with the advantages of Windows (far faster as not under emulation, good web browser, email etc.)?

I think the Alpha is an all round 'not very good thing' simply because most users unaccustomed to RISC OS' ways would probably pick Windows over RO. We can all rant about how great RISC OS is, but try explaining to a normal user why they should use it over Windows (taking away any anti-MS bias).

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Annraoi Message #92288, posted by ams at 20:26, 5/6/2003, in reply to message #92287
Member
Posts: 56
Actually it's *arguable* if the market is too small for a laptop. Portable computing devices and laptops seem (IMHO) to be less "tied-up" with the "it must be windows" notion that permeates other areas.

The real issue is that the current RO manufacturers (who let's face it are living hand-to-mouth) are not inclined to take the risk (and I can understand that) - and I'd point out that that's not quite the same thing as saying the market is *actually* too small - it's whether the RO hardware companies are prepared (litterally) to risk it all to find out or not.

Having RO run on "smaller" pre-existing devices (as thegman suggests) is probably a minimal risk stategy that companies *might* be prepared to consider. The other point is if the demand is great enough perhaps then they'd consider aiming towards the laptop (but on actual ARM hardware running RO5).

I don't worry about people "switching" from RO to Windows just because RO is running on a PC emulation - it's more from the point of view of how much money is being drained from the RISC OS market and moved into the PC market. Anyone not fiercely keen on RO would have browbeaten into moving to Windows long ago those remaining are unlikely to be swayed to move to Windows by XP's crayon colours and long boot up sequence....

Rgds etc.,

Annraoi

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Garry Message #92289, posted by thegman at 12:09, 6/6/2003, in reply to message #92288
Member
Posts: 65
Fair enough, I agree that people are more willing to buy an alternative platform laptop than a desktop, Apple's Powerbook sales demonstrate this, particularly in Japan. However, I doubt these people would be likely to buy an RO based laptop, given the limitations of the platform in terms of processor power (I know about the megahertz myth and all that, but PowerPC and Intel chips are *a lot* faster even at lower clock speeds, and for loads of tasks this *matters*), software (web,email,multimedia,games), and to a certain extent, reliability of RISC OS, I doubt you'd get many takers for a RISC OS laptop which is supposed to replace Wintel/Mac. I just don't think RISC OS can compete with these two platforms anymore, given what Johnny User expects to achieve with his computer. However, compared to WindowsCE and other ROM-based OSes found on sub-notebooks, RISC OS can compete extraordinarily well. Even the the most ardent WinCE fanboy would be amazed if RISC OS was available on this http://www.smartbook.com.cn/ (the xScale based one). Oregano2 may not be much good compared to IE on XP, but I'll bet it whoops the arse off the WinCE competition.

Basically my opinion is this: a dedicated RISC OS notebook is not going happen given the size of the market, and if it does, it'll probably be crap and overpriced. Also RISC OS is far better off trying to displace WindowsCE, Embedded Linux, and Symbian on sub-notebook devices than it is trying to compete with a Powerbook G4 or IBM Thinkpad, because IMHO, it can't. If RISC OS can get onto xScale devices costing (say) £500-£600, I'd buy one in a second, not only that, if it sold say 10,000 units to newcomers to RISC OS this would make a huge impact on software development and also give ROL more sales than they have had in the entire history of the company.

Sorry for the long rant, but as long as Castle,MD and RiscStation make the products they are (or say they are), the market will continue to decline. Their intentions are great and I wish them all the luck in the world, but how many people here can honestly say their products are going to turn this platform around?

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
John Hoare Message #92290, posted by moss at 17:17, 6/6/2003, in reply to message #92289

Posts: 9346
I genuinely hope the IYONIX can turn the market around. It's certainly a *huge* step in the right direction...
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Martyn Fox Message #92291, posted by martyn fox at 14:06, 10/6/2003, in reply to message #92290
Member
Posts: 6
It's rumoured that RiscStation are just waiting for Simtec to deliver.

Martyn

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Martyn Fox Message #92292, posted by martyn fox at 14:07, 10/6/2003, in reply to message #92291
Member
Posts: 6
Does anybody know of anybody who has actually ordered or actually received an Alpha laptop yet?

Martyn

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Garry Message #92293, posted by thegman at 10:43, 11/6/2003, in reply to message #92292
Member
Posts: 65
RiscStation are waiting for Simtec to deliver what?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Martyn Fox Message #92294, posted by martyn fox at 12:35, 11/6/2003, in reply to message #92293
Member
Posts: 6
According to rumour, RiscStation are still waiting for Simtec, who have been developing the prototype of the RiscStation Portable, to deliver it to them.

Martyn

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Garry Message #92295, posted by thegman at 10:17, 12/6/2003, in reply to message #92294
Member
Posts: 65
I see, I wonder if this has been put about by RS to deflect the blame, but if it had, you'd think Simtec would defend themselves.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
awaynun Message #92296, posted at 09:59, 14/6/2003, in reply to message #92295
Unregistered user Martyn: I'd love to know where you heard that RiscStation are still waiting for the prototype from Simtec.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 

The Icon Bar: News and features: Alpha++