The RISC OS dispute: 12 months onBy Chris Williams. Published: 17th Jun 2005, 15:44:33 | Permalink | Printable
What, if anything, came out of the hype from last summer?Editorial This time last year, the nightmare scenario of the RISC OS platform collapsing looked inevitable. I don't particularly want to drag up the confusing whirlwind that was the 'Castle vs. RISCOS Ltd and friends' dispute again, although it's been 12 months since it all kicked off and in some ways, the record needs straightening.
The whole affair had been brewing for months behind closed doors and only went public last June when Castle were forced to show their hand after STD and VirtualAcorn responded publicly to the cease and desist letters they were sent.
After exhaustive negotiations, Castle and RISCOS Ltd. eventually signed a new agreement which would see RISC OS 4 and 5 merged and ROL allowed to continue developing and selling RISC OS. Sources have since alleged that agreement has been torn up and that there will be no merger of RISC OS until the two sides some how find a way to reconcile their differences. Whilst continuing to provide free updates and tweaks to RISC OS 5, Castle otherwise quietly washed its hands of its Merlin project, explaining that the list of feature requests had been passed to RISCOS Ltd to take care of.
Meanwhile, those close to RISCOS Ltd. say that few people with Iyonix computers have actually signed up to the 32bit Select scheme and ROL are allegedly unable to get the information they need from Castle to port 32bit RISC OS 4 to the Iyonix. Although ROL's small programming team managed to deliver 32bit compatibility and hardware abstraction, there's still a great deal of work left in developing drivers for the Iyonix hardware (from USB to PCI), all whilst supporting AdvantageSix's efforts in developing drivers for the A9 range.
Clearly, the only people who have won out of the past 12 dark months have been the lawyers, as several RISC OS companies have had to pour cash down the drain of the dispute that could otherwise have been spent on development. Castle's Peter Wild even admitted last year that the dispute "has wasted an incredibly large amount of everybody's time, it's wasted an incredibly large amount of money not just on solicitors fees, but on lost opportunities."
AdvantageSix's Matt Edgar commented earlier this week that the dispute had made him more "cautious and realistic" when deciding on whether or not to take a business risk or play it safe. He added that the fall out had made some companies and developers "more cooperative than before", effectively creating a "polarised market".
AdvantageSix earlier this year launched the A9home, which according to Ad6, is not in competition with the Iyonix and is aimed at users who would not otherwise buy Castle's computer for reasons of cost and usage requirements. They had planned to complete the A9home in time for Wakefield 2005, although Matt explained, "Projects do slip, but we're happy where we stand now". Ad6 also have no current plans for introducing a laptop version of the A9, despite rumours to the contrary.
If there was ever a textbook on how to run a business in a niche market, these past 14 months would probably be a prime case study. RISCOS Ltd and Castle declined to comment on the affair.
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