Castle rattles licensing sabre at 32bit RISC OS 4By Chris Williams. Published: 18th Jan 2006, 22:30:15 | Permalink | Printable
Ad6 say everything's under controlA Castle director alleged yesterday evening that "there is no machine other than the Iyonix running legitimately any 32 bit only form of RISC OS", adding that he believed such a computer would require licensing from the Iyonix manufacturer. Posting in a usenet thread in which the AdvantageSix A9home and the SharedCLibrary issue was being discussed, John Ballance claimed, "No product has yet been put forward for licensing."
Hours later in a clarification, John alleged that "certain obligations have not been met, leading to the Castle position at the moment that as the A9 has not been formally released, it is not a formal product, thus the 32bit variant of the SharedCLibrary has not been made available."
He continued: "I have clearly stated to any who ask that when the A9 is a formal product Castle will be happy to release an appropriate SharedCLibrary."
In response, AdvantageSix's Matt Edgar said: "Advantage Six always exercises due diligence in all the contracts they negotiate, and the licensing of RISC OS is no exception.
"In addition to this, we have been through all of this before when similar spurious allegations were made in the past, and it's very disappointing that this sort of thing has come up yet again."
In a nutshell, third party applications built with the Castle branded C/C++ compiler tools require the Castle SharedCLibrary to be loaded; a 32bit version of which is included with RISC OS 5 on the Iyonix and a 26bit version is freely available for RiscPC-class computers. A9home users have found that the RISCOS Ltd 32bit SharedCLibrary is not fully compatible with the Castle SCL, which is available to end users who either buy an Iyonix or the C/C++ compiler tools. People beta testing Advantage Six's little blue machine discovered that they were unable to run several applications that appeared to rely on the extra C99 functions in the Castle SCL. John later added that he spoke out on the newsgroup when the online conversation turned towards the possible redistribution of the 32bit Castle SCL by third parties - which John considered to be the equivalent of advocating software piracy.
The Castle technical director said: "That there is an issue with regards to the 32bit Castle SharedCLibrary availability for the AdvantageSix offering is well understood by us. It is our intellectual property, clearly, and our right to release it or not in each market segment."
RISCOS Ltd and Advantage Six are said to be still working out how to best release a compatible SharedCLibrary for RISC OS 4 users.
According to well placed sources, the licensing requirement of machines is due to a clause in the 'head RISC OS licence' that dictates which specific product markets particular companies have exclusive rights to. For example, the original licence agreement between Pace and RISCOS Ltd is understood to have mandated that RISC OS powered set top box products must be to authorised by and licensed from Pace. Depending upon who you speak to, just traditional Acorn based computers can be authorised by and licensed from RISCOS Ltd, whereas others believe all RISC OS powered desktop computers can be authorised by and licensed from RISCOS Ltd. There are differing interpretations of the wording in the closely guarded legal agreements, both the original documents and the succeeding paperwork signed in 2004: Castle argue that all new RISC OS powered products must be signed off by them and be subject to the usual royalty fees. RISCOS Ltd, AdvantageSix, and other RISC OS 4 licencees believe otherwise. Despite companies splashing out on legal costs amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, it arguably seems impossible to know for sure who is completely right without seeing the crucial documentation firsthand.
During the 2004 fiasco between Castle and other companies, it was also revealed that hardware emulator VirtualRiscPC was an unauthorised RISC OS product in the RISC OS 5 publisher's opinion. The A9home, which is still available on limited release and runs ROL's 32bit RISC OS 4, was introduced in May last year as an entry level product with RISC OS Select features and priced cheaper than the Iyonix at 586 quid. Since its launch as a beta machine, Castle have slashed the retail cost of their XScale powered computer to a starting price of 799 quid.
Although he admitted he hadn't used an A9home nor seen the ARM9 based computer in action, John said: "I do welcome the A9. It's in the interests of the market and Castle to have some competition. Having some choice is good, provided underlying agreements are properly adhered to."
He also suggested that if the right deal were offered, Castle's investors would be willing to sell on the RISC OS IPR if a bidder were to present a realistic offer that had unanimous support. John said: "RISC OS could be up for sale if the price is right; nothing is impossible."
The 2004 dispute
Suddenly reminded of the November 2003 RONWUG meeting
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