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MicroDigital sought by bailiffs

By Chris Williams. Published: 11th Jul 2005, 15:17:27 | Permalink | Printable

Not the best time to play hide and seek [Updated]

The exact whereabouts of MicroDigital remains a mystery after bailiffs told a county court that the company had ceased trading from its West Yorkshire offices. A MicroDigital customer obtained a warrant from Southampton County Court after successfully taking the hardware manufacturer to court in February to forcibly obtain a refund on a broken Omega computer.

When bailiffs arrived at MicroDigital's doorstop on Titus Street in mid-June, they reportedly found no sellable goods at that location. Further local enquiries made by the bailiffs failed to reveal any further information on the whereabouts of MicroDigital.

An OmegaIn November 2000, the customer says he, like so many other users at the time, put down a £250 deposit for an Omega, which was promised to be ready by Christmas that year. In September 2002, the Omega was still unreleased although the customer in question received a letter saying the computer was being manufactured. Six months later, MicroDigital requested full payment for the machine and in April that year, cashed a cheque for £1297 from the customer. In February 2004, the Omega still hadn't arrived, despite one reseller declaring he had cleared his backlog of Omega orders. After spending weeks chasing up MicroDigital over the telephone, the customer's Omega finally arrived in Cheltenham in March, although the customer had since moved to Southampton and had to travel back to Cheltenham to pick it up.

He told us: "On lifting the computer out of the box I could hear something moving around inside. Closer examination showed that the bottom of the front faceplate was unsecured and swung out when the computer was moved. Subsequently, it was found that most of the supporting pins for the front faceplate were snapped off.

"Because of the damage I didn't try the computer out to see if it worked, but it wouldn't have switched on anyway because the power lead wasnít connected to the 'on' button on the faceplate. This lead had a barbed connector which should have secured it in a grille in the metal case, level with and opposite the 'on' button."

He added: "The fact that it was hanging loose suggests it was never properly connected up. Had it been torn out by an impact the plastic barb would presumably have broken.

"In addition to the damage, compared to the original specifications, this computer was lacking in several features and had been delivered with an external modem, instead of the internal modem it was advertised as having."

After days of phone calls, MicroDigital eventually agreed to pick up the damaged computer and fix it. The machine was finally collected at the end of March, however it had not been returned by the end of April, prompting the customer to demand a refund. Legal action followed, and after losing an appeal, MicroDigital were instructed to refund the cost of the Omega plus legal costs and interest to the customer. The bailiffs were drafted in when the company failed to pay back the money owed by the beginning of March 2005.

According to Companies House, MicroDigital are still trading at Titus Street. One Omega reseller said last week that he had not been informed of the legal battle and was oblivious to the bailiff's findings. Another reseller in Europe confirmed with us also that the affair was news to him, claiming that they received an email last week from MicroDigital saying development was continuing. Trading Standards officers were also said to have found it difficult to contact the Omega manufacturer.

The Omega computer was billed as a StrongARM powered computer that ran RISC OS 4 and would, we were told, at some point support an XScale second processor. Despite emerging from a lot of hype in late 2000, it eventually started shipping by around July 2003, although lacked several advertised features. MicroDigital could not be reached for comment.

Update at 15:56 19/7/2005
According to Julian Zimmerle, a MicroDigital support forum administrator, the microdigital.biz and microdigital.info websites are both up and running, despite the disappearance of microdigital.co.uk. Julian says the .biz and .info sites are owned by MicroDigital and should be considered official. Meanwhile, we've learnt that the bailiffs found MD's offices to be "empty" and assumed that they had ceased trading. Investigations continue.


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Sad day :-(

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 11/7/05 3:55PM
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I have a lot of respect for MicroDigital in producing what seems to be an impressive computer.

But as John says, it's sad to hear about the trouble customers like this have had.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 11/7/05 3:58PM
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Let's be honest, most people had given up on Microdigital already and have put their money into the IYONIX pc or are waiting for an A9home.

It is a very sad, though, for those who have spent money on Omegas. I hope, as always, that Microdigital can turn the situation around to help those people.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 11/7/05 3:59PM
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It still amazes me how people can defend this company. I have seen nothing but an unacceptable track record from them.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 11/7/05 4:10PM
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I think it's sad that a customer had to resort to legal action. I'm amazed that Microdigital could provide such a poor quality of service in the first place. It is a shame that Microdigital are unable or unwilling to respond to this article.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 11/7/05 4:32PM
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So I guess it's going to be fun trying to get a network card for a Mico then :(

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 11/7/05 4:47PM
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It says a lot for the loyalty of the RO community that people, even after all this time, were willing to support MD. However, it may be best for the situation to come to a head; the Omega is (IMHO)looking dated now. Hopefully this will free up some sales for A6 or Iyonix instead.

I do hope those with outstanding deposits are able to get their money back or this really will be a tragedy.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 11/7/05 4:48PM
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Well . . . as I have just taken the plunge into hardware after years of emulation, I am glad I plumped for a Iyonix Panther in the end. It's such a shame though, when things come to such a head. :(

 is a RISC OS UserRickCB on 11/7/05 5:05PM
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Jonix: well said, to me MicroDigital are scum for doing this. Although with their track record, it might have been a bit foolish to pay for the computer in full....

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 11/7/05 6:12PM
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I never got my deposit back but I wrote it off years ago as just an unfortunate thing. I ended up buying an Iyonix. Such is the danger of vapourware.

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 11/7/05 6:51PM
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I don't agree with people writing off deposits. If you've paid for something and the product doesn't appear then you should get the money back. There is no point in trying to support a company by writing off your deposit when they themselves cannot forfill their own promises. By not claiming your deposit you are condoning their activities. It's your choice of course, but it doesn't make good business sense.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 11/7/05 7:05PM
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Thats true but it also depends on the amount paid and how much trouble you are prepared to go to to get it back. This varies from person to person of course.

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 11/7/05 8:23PM
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Snig It is going to cost me as much in 'initial' debt collection agency costs just to start going after my two RS portable deposits as the deposits themselves.

Even then there is still no guarantee that *any* monies will come back to me.

Seems a bit pointless pouring good money after bad.

Probably better to complain to the local Trading Standards Office and Chamber of Commerce about the company concerned (which I will certainly be doing very shortly).

Tony Still IMHO it shows an insane degree of trust in companies that have proven time and time again to be, if not untrustworthy and reckless with other people's money, then unbelievably incompetent.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 11/7/05 8:47PM
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I don't know if this is a sensible time to let peeps know that we offer 75ukp discounts on machines to any ex-MD or ex-Riscstation customers who have lost out along the way. In some cases (eg. lowest end riscube) we may not be able to offer the full 100ukp, but where possible we will. I'd like to be able to offer more, but that's not possible. But hopefully it makes things easier to bear if you have lost deposits etc.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 9:30PM
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erm, that 100ukp should be a 75ukp (oops). I knew I should have proofread that better.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 9:31PM
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arawnsley: "we offer 75ukp discounts on machines to any ex-MD or ex-Riscstation customers who have lost out"

Time for the 'R-Comp Iyonix bonus' perhaps?

A lot of people bought RISC OS 5 machines from CJE because of the inventives offered, but R-Comp could offer 32-bit ready software too...


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/7/05 10:44PM
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Sorry, my last comment was a bit unfair to CJE. I meant that R-Comp could offer a wider range of 32-bit ready software.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/7/05 10:46PM
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"Time for the 'R-Comp Iyonix bonus' perhaps?"

I doubt it. I've heard nothing but complaints about the IYONIX pc from R-Comp.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 11/7/05 11:04PM
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It's such a shame that we are so divided by our common love for a platform . . .

 is a RISC OS UserRickCB on 11/7/05 11:16PM
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RickCB: "It's such a shame that we are so divided by our common love for a platform . . ."

I don't think anyone is divided. Even companies selling Windows computers with RISC OS emulators (like MicroDigital Ltd and R-Comp) have found that most RISC OS enthusiasts prefer a real RISC OS computer, not a Windows computer with an emulator.

What *is* a pity is that it's taken people so long to realise that simple fact. Think of what could have been achieved if all that effort had been put into more productive channels!


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/7/05 11:23PM
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fylfot - sadly I'm in the same boat as others on this thread who spent hundreds of pounds on stuff that never worked as it should. You live and learn, I guess.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 11:24PM
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dgs - huh? What you on about - that's complete nonesense.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 11:31PM
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arawnsley: If you're Iyonix doesn't work properly (i presume thats what you mean) then speak to CTL who I'm sure would be more than happy to sort-out any Issues you may have, theres been many improvements to the Iyonix since the early models

 is a RISC OS Userleeshep on 11/7/05 11:36PM
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leeshep - erm, no, they couldn't/wouldn't fix it. Hence my problem. And to whoever moderated my reply to dgs' posting down - I think I'm allowed to comment when dgs refers to my business in a completely erronious posting

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 11:38PM
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This article is about Microdigital and and the Omega, not the IYONIX pc.

RickCB said "I am glad I plumped for a Iyonix Panther in the end". dansguardian, someone who was let down by Microdigital, said "I ended up buying an Iyonix". These are not complaints about the IYONIX pc, and I'm sure they wouldn't say they'd "spent hundreds of pounds on stuff that never worked as it should". dgs, another IYONIX user has only ever had positive things to say about the machine. In fact, I've heard very few IYONIX users complain about their machines.

Stop being vague and tell us what you think you've wasted your money on. You're normally very enthusiastic about letting us know at RISC OS shows.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 11/7/05 11:41PM
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leeshep: I saw R-Comp's Iyonix up and running at the RISC OS Expo very recently, as did a lot of other people.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/7/05 11:42PM
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as you say its off topic - read the thread, this started when I told people about our discounts for dissatisfied Microdigital and RiscStation customers. That's on-topic, and relavent. My problems with the Iyonix are for someplace else - email maybe.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/7/05 11:45PM
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It's a shame if you have had problems with your IYONIX. But I'm a tad suspicious about the whole situation. Castle seem to have supported almost every other IYONIX user very well. At the recent Expo in Holland you were noted as being critical of the A9home. It almost seems like you'll take a negative view of anything other than your Microsoft Windows PCs with which you try to convince us are authentic RISC OS machines.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 11/7/05 11:51PM
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arawnsley: "My problems with the Iyonix are for someplace else - email maybe"

I hope not! I've already seen the sort of comments you make about the Iyonix in email (not just what you sent to me), as well as hearing what you've said in person at shows. Quite similar to what fylfot hints at!

Your Iyonix has been seen up and running at several RISC OS shows, in fact you've sold me a fair bit of hardware purely on the basis of what I've tested on your Iyonix on your stand. (No complaints here!)

I doubt I'm the only person to buy things on that basis, so I think it's very sad that you try to promote your Windows products with that sort of comment.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/7/05 11:56PM
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fylfot/dgs - I give up. You win. You've managed to take a real save-money offer from me, and turn it into an argument. Well done.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 12/7/05 12:03AM
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"fylfot/dgs - I give up. You win. You've managed to take a real save-money offer from me, and turn it into an argument. Well done."

No Andrew, we've not won. But the RISC OS market has lost. R-Comp fast loses credibility when it is seen publically critisising the future of RISC OS on native hardware.

Also, it is not appropriate to spam Drobe with adverts in the comments. Secondly, I am sure some users will appreciate those discounts. But have some respect, please.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 12/07/05 00:16AM
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In reply to Ian Chamberlain: You said to Andrew Rawnsley: Have some respect, please. YOU better have some respect to him instead. HE was NOT critical on the Expo-2005 in Hotel Mercure NL. I have not seen you there, Ian. If you haven't been there yourself on that RISC OS EXPO, then don't moan about him, he only is doing his job at that RISC OS expo in the Netherlands and their stand has even couples of A9-Home computers for showing and working.

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 12/07/05 04:48AM
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"YOU better have some respect to him instead."

Yes, well that's just it, the unfortunate thing is it is 'instead'. Whilst I respect R-Comp for the updates to their software like MessengerPro and Grapevine (which I have bought, by the way), they have been seen publicly attacking the IYONIX pc (which I have witnessed first hand) and the A9home (which I have heard about from a number of trusted sources).

"their stand has even couples of A9-Home computers for showing and working."

I don't see how that's relevant. They've had IYONIX pcs on their stand since it was release. This has not stopped their critisism of Castle and their machine.

I am the first to admit that RISC OS emulation has is place amongst other RISC OS solutions like the A9home and IYONIX. I am not critisising R-Comp for selling MS Windows PCs with a RISC OS emulator. What I am critisising is the lack of respect R-Comp has for other people's products. Such a bitchy attitude cannot be afforded in such a small market.

R-Comp, like most RISC OS companies do, need to value the benefit of a variety of solutions.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 12/07/05 08:14AM
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Here we go again.

Whatever the subject the main function of some people in these groups (I won't call them "contributors") is to get OT as soon as possible and start slinging mud. No wonder so many people are thorougly disillusioned with the whole RISC OS scene.

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 12/07/05 08:49AM
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Meanwhile, back on topic. I've already said plenty about MicroDigital's practices many years ago, and nothing has really changed, so I won't repeat it here.

What I will note is that part of what allowed them to carry on for so long is the good will of RISC OS users - something that exists in some small enthusiast markets (notably the similar Amiga market), but really would be hard-pressed to surive in the "real world". It's this very same good will that has allowed RISCOS Ltd to carry on for so long, and indeed, my own work would have been impossible without the same, which is something I'm very much aware of.

Ultimately, such projects must deliver; something that ROL now finds itself under critisism over, and something I would rightly expect myself if I didn't produce much. But my advantage is that much of what I do is transparent: all the stuff I'm working on is readily available, something that's hard for companies to emulate, although it must be said that Spellings have made a real effort.

Constrasts are obvious too. With an Omega, we're talking about well over 1000UKP. With my work, if they feel they didn't get value for money, that would clearly be unfortunate, but it wouldn't be the end of the world being down by the amount you could easily spend on a night out.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 12/07/05 09:00AM
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In reply to David Holden:

Yes, I really can't understand why some people who should be helping and suporting the platform as a whole are instead hell bent on it's destruction. It's a great shame :-(

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 12/07/05 11:43AM
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Aaron: I couldn't agree more. And I support dgs, yourself and fylfot for bringing such people to account.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisfrog1 on 12/07/05 12:10AM
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In a certain twist of irony, the gist of the email I sent to DGS this morning was - how can we heal the rift in the market by accepting each other's views. We have to all accept that each others' experiences will be different, and that will colour their view on things. That doesn't make any product "less valid" than the other. I think myself, dgs and fylfot have each got to try harder to understand each other's positions and accept them. I for one will be trying to not rise to bait, and not let my experiences colour my judgement as much. Fingers crossed its the first step.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 12/07/05 3:09PM
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OT to the original topic, but very poignant to this thread: piemmmm..., is there any chance you can restrict the comment moderation, possibly in a similar way to Slashdot's 'karma' rating. I get the impression the moderation has been extremely abused in recent posts on this thread and others, by the same people moderating multiply., and it certainly looks like a 'mod war' on this thread!!!

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 12/07/05 6:21PM
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Andrew: Users can only moderate once per comment, if that's what you mean. If you see a comment that has been modded up or down and you don't agree with it, then that doesn't the system is broken. It means people have voted on it. If the system had been abused, we would already be addressing it.

Feel free to (and please do) discuss the moderation system elsewhere, in a relevant forum on the website. Give URLs, examples, whatever, just not here. Not in an article discussion thread.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 12/07/05 6:44PM
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If MD have gone under it is indeed a sad day, as it means one fewer company in the RISC OS market.

If there's some other problem, then we can only wait. I admit to being slightly miffed about my Omega having USB sockets which will never do anytihng other than provide +5V. Maybe MD will be back on their feet soon.

Alex (always optimistic).

 is a RISC OS Useralex on 12/07/05 7:32PM
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One would hope that MD will do what they can to address the situation.

If MD cannot continue in business perhaps they can do things that help ameliorate the losses of their customers (perhaps their Intellectual Property (IP) has value that could be realised and moneys paid to their creditors/customers ? perhaps they have stock that could be sold etc.,).

Yes I agree that it would be sad to see a company leave the RISC OS market - but one distinctly gets the feeling that the whole Omega affair wasn't exactly a picnic for the platform; the apparent "imminent" release of Omega (hinted at around *3 years prior to launch*) probably resulted in:

(1). The demise of the Millipede Imago (2). Reductions in sales from companies that had *actual* RISC OS hardware out there (I speak of RiscStation and Castle) (3). Probably had people "save" for the Omega at the expense of reduced spending on software (hitting developers) (4). Prompted RISC OS Ltd to officially endorse Windows based RISC OS emulation on the MD-Alpha - A Microsoft Windows based laptop.

I'd argue all of those were negative, the losses Omega generated weren't just limited to the depositors who lost out, for whom one must have symphathy, but also the other vendors who were trying to keep RISC OS running on real ARM hardware who no doubt suffered too.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 12/07/05 7:51PM
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Well I would be frankly shocked if MD are going under, in their defence I can say that I have had nothing but excellent from the company. Every technical support query I had with our Mico was answered in no time, and this saddens me to hear this news.

I certainly hope they can sort things out. I think it's a real shame sometimes that people can't rally around the few small hardware developers that we actually have. I understand that the situation with the Omega has upset some people, and it's a shame it's taken legal action to try to resolve things.

The RISC OS market is feeling worringly small once again.

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 15/07/05 9:48PM
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The thing is that it only helps to "rally around the few small hardware developers" if those hardware developers are actually developing hardware. Rally round Castle and Stuart Tyrell, certainly - but Microdigital have been promising far more than they were delivering for a very long time now, with the Omega, and they've hurt the market quite badly by doing so. If you don't believe that, then consider Annraoi's list in the post before yours - or look at the poll that the iconbar did a couple of years ago where over 50% of people responding said that they'd not bought hardware because of the Omega (as opposed to only about 10% who wouldn't have bought anything anyway). It's a small sample, but every one of those is a customer lost for the Iyonix, or viewfinder/unipod, or Riscstation, or some other RISC OS hardware project.

Personally, I don't find that the loss of Microdigital makes the market feel any smaller at all; they've promised so much to so many, and delivered so little to so few, for so long that I'd learned to ignore them completely. Much better to have manufacturers who actually deliver (both machines and on their promises:).

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 16/07/05 12:09AM
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I find it interesting to note that the successful hardware developers also are the ones who keep their mouths shut about products until just before launch, whereas those who promise for years and fail to deliver tend to do badly.

Can't think why. It's almost as if the phrase "real soon now" loses its edge the 30th time you hear it...

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 16/07/05 12:54AM
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I think (hope) the reason for this is that other companies have learnt from the mistake Microdigital made in preannouncing the Omega.

I'm not for a second excusing the poor service that some customers appear to have received (or suggesting that legal action shouldn't have been taken), but I suspect that MD suffered the most from their mistake with otherwise potential purchasers withdrawing their deposits.

In my opinion it *will* be a shame if MD leave the market, if only because it will leave current Omega and Mico owners without further support.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 16/07/05 4:08PM
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I'm sure there are some relatively satisfied Omega or Mico owners out there, but I'm sure there are quite a few mistreated customers as well, apart from the damage done to the market as a whole due to their empty promises, mistreating the press and arrogance.

I can only say, that on balance, the market will be better off with MD gone. Yes, one could argue it be smaller, but certainly more stable without some of the vapourware... When the Omega project was first unveiled and in the months thereafter, I found it quite promising, innovative (the soft-pc idea) and exciting - therefore it truly is a shame how things finally panned out. It would be to their credit, if MD issued a press release concerning the current situation, how remote that possibility may seem.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 16/07/05 4:19PM
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"When the Omega project was first unveiled and in the months thereafter, I found it quite promising, innovative (the soft-pc idea) and exciting"

Various concepts connected with the Omega did sound exciting, albeit from a nostalgia perspective: the supposed dual processor design was reminiscent of the Risc PC and/or the BBC second processor architectures. However, its arguably better to not get too fancy when putting out computer hardware.

In the era of the BBC micro, bolting extra processors onto one's "terminal" was a reasonable way of getting access to more computing power, so the second processor concept was fairly interesting. In the era of the Risc PC, having multiple processors could also have been a reasonable way of getting more computing power under the hood.

Unfortunately, the Omega saga is reminiscent of Acorn: nearly all effort on multiprocessor capabilities the Risc PC went into making the "closet PC owner" PC card capabilities, sacrificing simplicity for something that had decreasing relevance. Acorn should have done a solution and dropped identical CPUs into the slots.

Meanwhile, Microdigital should have just gone with one of the increasing numbers of ARM evaluation boards, put the product out there, waited a bit, discovered clearly superior CPUs and boards, put another product out, and so on. ARM stuff isn't exactly a niche any more, and with all that market activity, the best way to deliver better performance is to go along with that market, not try and offer some overcomplicated future-proof solution that will have CPU and system bus frequencies way below its competitors when/if the upgrades start coming.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 19/07/05 5:40PM
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