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Plain sailing for a new desktop machine?

By Ian Chamberlain. Published: 26th Mar 2005, 21:53:30 | Permalink | Printable

Ian Chamberlain offers his view on how the time is right for a new desktop machine

Plain sailing motifOpinion There's still very little word on our platform's next exciting hardware buzzword, the A9 and specifically, the A9home. It's safe to say, however, that all things considered, this new piece of kit (shock horror, a real hardware RISC OS machine) could be quite a success and might even attract some new users to the platform. I'll explain why.

There are several reasons to be excited; mainly, the backdrop's perfect. Advantage Six's proposed computer platform has the luxury of adopting all the major RISC OS software titles that have already been future-proofed to work on 32bit versions of the OS. Users will be able to upgrade without first having to wait for developers to do the necessary work. They can be thankful for the Iyonix which paved the way.

A further thing to say about software is that our catalogue of high-quality software is in relatively fine health. The platform's popular e-mail client Messenger Pro has recently seen some important development. ArtWorks2 and TechWriter are in able hands and deliver impressive capabilities to compete with graphics and word processing software on other operating systems. And remember just a couple of years back when users would complain of not being able to print to the new models of photo-quality printers? This has largely been resolved by the excellent GimpPrint software. The fact that this last title is open source is significant. In my estimation it will be a further open source project that will deliver the resolution to our current crisis (the lack of an up-to-date browser) and other gaps. The fact that RISC OS versions of well-known software are starting to appear on our platform adds to our credibility. I call on users to support this effort.

But perhaps Advantage Six's real success will lie in their approach of co-operating with others. Castle decided to go it alone with their own version of RISC OS. In fact Castle developed a very unhealthy relationship with many of the market's companies when they threatened them with legal action. Instead Ad6, better known as STD to RISC OS desktop users, has worked with RISC OS Ltd. to create a new version of the OS suitable for running on their new hardware. This is a massive benefit. Many users are crying out for a version of Select (the most feature-rich version of RISC OS) for the Iyonix. And it is significant that we will probably see this version running on the A9 platform before (and if) we ever see it on the Iyonix.

Remember when I criticised STD for developing technologies that would benefit very few RISC OS users (more specifically, their VVRAM technology)? Well, they listened to a user's concern and made it available to all Virtual RiscPC users. In fact, I have to state explicitly that I'm impressed with the way that STD seems to have developed good relationships with almost everyone in the RISC OS community. Perhaps it was this spirit which allowed them to develop a thermal dye printer driver to support Simtec's, and their main rival's, USB implementation. To use a cliché, STD has managed to win the hearts and minds of the market and this is a good indicator of how successful they have been and will be in the future.

Also key to the A9home's success will be its ability to plug a gap in the market. Apple realised the need to deliver an attractive, feature-full version of a Mac to a low-budget market. Their Mac mini filled the criteria and is creating a whole new generation of Mac users. Before, the technology was attractive, in fact fashionable, but many users were barred from the exclusive world of Apple because of the price tag. I think the same applies for RISC OS. Okay, we're not so fashionable, but we do have an operating system that people like the look of. Many a time I have demonstrated RISC OS to friends - where they've been interested enough to ask about buying a machine - only to have them laugh in my face when they're shown the price of an Iyonix, our only bit of new hardware.

Obviously we need to remove this stumbling block. New users need an easy route into the platform. This is why one of the A9home's key features must be to have affordable price.

And if it doesn't attract new users? The A9home will be the perfect upgrade for the significant number of users still using RiscPCs. In fact, it will be this group who will find the option most appealing. These users have held back from upgrading to new hardware because they don't want to compromise between fast hardware and the most feature-rich version of the operating system. The A9home will be able to deliver on both these fronts.

STD have said the specifications and the future of the A9home, of which nothing has been officially announced, is down to the dealer who commissions the desktop project, currently rumoured to be CJE Micros.

Advantage Six and STD will both be exhibiting at this May's Wakefield show. On the what we can expect at the event, Ad6's Matt Edgar told us earlier this week: "Advantage 6 will have some items which should be interesting and relevant to show-goers, but are not current STD offerings.

"These things will show some of the directions that Advantage 6 are taking with familiar technology - but not intended for the retail market, and also how some of our OEM work feeds back into the retail and enthusiast arena (either through STD or third parties)."

He added: "Some of this will start to be visible over the coming weeks."

So to sum up: If STD and friends listen to what users want, the contemplated A9home will deliver, on a background of active software development, and very soon an up-to-date open source browser, the best version of the operating system, the most popular USB implementation, fast hardware, and most importantly, at an affordable price. And if we're lucky, and someone's got some savvy, a nice sleek case-design like the Mac mini. Oh, and one last thing. Please get rid of the A9home name. It's horrible.

Am I asking too much? Personally I think it's plain sailing.

Links

A9home in public

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Next: Running RISC OS Programs on Linux

Discussion

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So how does VVRAM work then?

I remember you could hack the BandLimit on RedSquirrel (only in ARM7500 mode) but it was still limited to 4Mb or something due to the OS, and it was not accelerated.....

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 27/3/05 6:05AM
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An excellent article covering many key points; thanks for gathering your thoughts together for us, Ian. I agree with your one negative comment, the name A9home. Qercus, Drobe and Iyonix are good names because even an unsophisticated google search homes in on what you expect and without clutter. Yet they are not too contrived or hard to remember. It's an extra aspect to the marketing game that those who name products have to consider these days. It'll be interesting to see what emerges, given all of the high, and hopefully not unrealistic, hopes the A9 seems to be generating.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 27/3/05 2:41PM
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Nice idea. An entry level machine that performs well is needed. Bear in mind that the other thing that is needed is a much better applications bundle.

We bought a mac mini because the bundled apps expanded what we could do with a computer (compared to what we could do on our RiscPC's and Iyonix) and made some things we do a lot easier.

It is of course a chicken and egg scenario, the more the market expands the greater the chance that more software will be written. Thus computers such as the (proposed) A9home could help by expanding the market.

Interesting times. Maybe it will even be worth considering purchasing another RISC OS machine in a couple of years time when a machine that makes the Iyonix look slow appears, and RISC OS applications have been ported/written to plug the remaining gaps (as the Firefox project should do for browsers).

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 27/3/05 2:54PM
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A very good article there.

One thing about the A9home name, is it a working name and maybe will get changed when it is released.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 27/3/05 5:39PM
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It all depends on what constitutes an entry level machine. My thought is, if it's any slower than an Iyonix then what's the point? Which begs the question, how fast will it be and which proccessor will it use? Cheers!

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 27/3/05 5:53PM
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Good news about the A9home development.

The A9 name is unusual, sounds like a photo copy paper size?

I like the word Omega as a word easy to remember, but the meaning of Omega for the Omega Computer could spell the end of an era?

So what is a good new name for the A9home? Any ideas?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 27/3/05 11:08PM
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What about Centauri or Centurion ???

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 28/3/05 9:06AM
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Fwibbler Indeed. I was thinking of entry level in price.

As for being at least as fast as an Iyonix, I'd look at things such as the speed of the currently developed RISC OS web browsers......After Safari on the mac mini, even Netsurf on the Iyonix feels a bit slow....If you can get that sort of thing right then raw CPU speed is a bit less important.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 28/3/05 11:59AM
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'Perhaps it was this spirit which allowed them to develop a thermal dye printer driver to support Simtec's, and their main rival's, USB implementation'

Can I just point out that it was someone@castle that developed the printer driver and then gave it to STD to distribute?

 is a RISC OS Usersenduran on 28/3/05 12:09PM
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added to senduran: The printer driver deal was agreed after a meeting between John (of Castle) and Matt (of STD) following a RONWUG meeting. Although he got an odd minor detail wrong the critical aspect of Ian's report is 'co-operation'. It's essential.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 28/3/05 4:02PM
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In reply to martin:

I've just done a quick google for A9home and the top four matchs were all relevant. And thats with a world search and not justing limiting it to the UK.

And what makes anyone think the name will be different on actual release? A9 fits in nicely with the STD/Advantage 6 naming convention for thier other products, the A6, A6+ and the proof of concept A5.

Personally I like it.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 29/3/05 12:34PM
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But surely, like the final specifications, the final name of the A9Home will be upto the dealer who who commissions then to be built?

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 29/3/05 12:57PM
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I think A9home sounds a little like 'XP Home'. Do we really want to associate with that? lol

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 29/3/05 1:22PM
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Windows XP Home N is a new version of XP without Windows Media Player

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 29/3/05 3:26PM
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hmm would the XP Home N be the anti-competition thing again?... if so lets get a media player for RISC OS and supply it as an expandable thing via the OS ;)

so much of windows is third party it's a wonder it ever starts up :P...random note

Lets hope i can get some money together to afford a new computer...doubt it tho

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 30/3/05 5:40PM
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Yes em2ac, it's the EU anti-competition thing.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 30/3/05 7:50PM
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