A9home beta will give Ad6 some breathing roomBy Chris Williams. Published: 22nd May 2005, 17:54:54 | Permalink | Printable
Analysis of the A9home beta release [Updated]It's not finished and it's not for sale, yet, is the message from AdvantageSix on the A9home. It would appear that they, Ad6 and CJE, have to polish the product off and arrange a means of providing support to the end user.
More importantly, the hardware is yet to be fully harnessed, as the chipset, which Ad6 are keeping a secret for some reason, apparently provides a lot more functionality than the operating system supports. The 32bit OS also needs work done on it to bring it up to the stability expected of RISC OS Adjust. Crucial questions, such as the speed of disc access and the supported screen modes, are yet to be answered, presumably because they'll ultimately depending on what the final version of the retail A9home will be.
So far, the gang are aiming for six main selling points: small, tough, portable, native RISC OS system, affordable and speed. The machine can be carried any where in a small flight case and Ad6's Matt Edgar demonstrated stepping on the device to show how rugged the aluminium case is. The speed and affordable points will, of course, be down to end user experience. Our previous article on why now is a good time for a new desktop computer initially had AdvantageSix fearing that details of their product had been leaked. It turns out that yes, the time is now right for a new device to enter the market, aimed as an entry level model.
In the meantime, while we and other users brood over the consequences of the A9home's unveiling, developers can get their hands on an A9home for 50 quid off the retail price, and later upgrade to a full retail version when the product is released. This beta release system features a preview version of the 32bit RISC OS Adjust, to give programmers "a head-start in writing new and exciting applications for the RISC OS platform", according to Ad6. One thing they mention is that software for 32bit RISC OS 4 will not be fully compatible with RISC OS 5, and vice versa. This is due to a number of factors, one being programmers assuming that all 32bit software will only be running on the Iyonix platform and using fixed hardware addresses and so on.
By signing up to the beta test scheme, you must be or will become a 'bona-fide' developer of RISC OS products and be willing to participate in testing the machine and software supplied with it. An interesting clause in the scheme's T&Cs states that RISC OS Adjust 32 is provided without support from RISCOS Ltd., and that you must "supply feedback regarding the developer-issue A9home only via AdvantageSix" - which could mean that those with an A9home could be gagged from saying too much about the computer.
Ad6's Stuart Tyrrell commented that he felt, for now, sales of native RISC OS 4 hardware would not overly affect emulation sales and vice-versa. Whilst there will be users who'll hold onto their cash for a while longer to see how the A9home manifests into reality, we've heard of a few users who still walked out of the show with an Iyonix.
Given the current state of play for the RISC OS platform, justifying developing and manufacturing new hardware is becoming increasingly difficult, due to ROI and economies of scale issues. Is it vapourware? Initially, we thought so. Now we've seen the kit in action, and learnt that CJE and Ad6 are hoping for beta machine sales to dig into three figures in order to see a return on their investments.
The A9home is not only a new major native product waiting in the wings, it also represents a determination to keep the OS and its users running on new hardware. How their competition and third party developers react will be one we'll keep an eye on.
Update at 12:17 24/5/2005
A source close to the A9home development confirmed earlier today the chipset used in the A9home, which (according to the specifications) go up to 1024x768 in 16/32bpp and 1280x1024 in 16bpp. The insider added: "We only showed at the slightly lower size because we were busy on other things and hadn't sorted an MDF for the LCD's we used on display." The SM501 is packed with features and IO support.
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