Could public cash save our software?By Paul Stewart. Published: 8th Jul 2006, 17:17:37 | Permalink | Printable
Paul Stewart ponders office suites and hardware costsOpinion - Recent years have seen the likes of Hyundai and Kia produce cheap high specification small cars. All you have to do is look around you, there seems to be low cost non-European or US cars on most roads. Certainly a lot more than there was a decade ago.
All seem to come with all modern features such as CD radio, air conditioning, split folding rear seats, electric mirrors, and so on. Nor do they fair badly on the miles per gallon tables either. They're affordable and come with a decent equipment specification.
But what about the badge? Wasn't too many years ago when people looked at these car manufactures and turned their noses up at them and purchased a more expensive Ford, Renault, Citroën or from another mainstream western manufacturer? How times have changed.
The same can also be said in the computing industry. Where once you had your respected big named brands, that everyone purchased at astronomic prices. Now you have thousands of clone makers who make what was once IBM compatible computers. These days even IBM no longer manufactures their own desktop computers. The market is just too cut throat leaving the likes of IBM out of pocket and struggling to maintain their market share.
With such a hefty fall in the price of essentially Windows-compatible computers, it's no wonder we now have the VirtualRiscPC range of RISC OS emulators. The price per Mhz-power for a Windows box is significantly cheaper than that of a native RISC OS computer. You easily get more bang for your buck with Intel.
What of the RISC OS profit line? Entry level Windows-compatible computers can now be purchased for the small sum of £209 plus VAT. An entry level RISC OS system will set you back a hefty 499 plus VAT, and that is excluding an optical drive. That's an extra £290 for a native RISC OS computer. Even a Mac Mini will only set you back £339 sans VAT. So, native RISC OS hardware does not fair all that well on cost. However as we are all aware, it is not just the cost of computer system that makes it worth buying.
Operating system wise, Windows XP Home Edition weighs in at a hefty 135 quid, or 68.99 if upgrading. It's cheaper if you buy from PC World or Watford. RISC OS Adjust is £69.00 with a special offer from March 2006.
As far as the cost of the operating system goes, no complaints here from me.
It's not just the operating system that costs money. RISC OS used to be well catered for on the office application front too, both on affordability and product ability. Microsoft Office, standard edition, comes with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation creation software, personal organiser and email client. All of these products for just £258 plus VAT.
Sadly RISC OS does not have an office suite. This I think is a big gap in the market, but one that could easily be filled. We have the makings of the suite, just not an actual product to sell as a convenient bundle:
- EasiWriter Pro - £99 (£65.00 student edition)
- Schema2 - £65
- Fireworkz32 - £100
- DataPower2 - £99 (£49 for home edition)
- OHP - £40.00
- Organizer - £10
Like I said, we have the makings. They just need updating and pulling together under one banner. And Microsoft are supposedly going to support an open document format now, which could give us a helping hand.
Since the demise of Acorn, in my opinion, the RISC OS platform has just been treading water. This has lead to a fragmented OS versions and the use of applications that are either no longer being maintained or updates arrive few and far between - with not many new and visible features for the upgrade price. This, in my view, has resulted in many users leaving the platform and an inherent inability to attract sufficient users to enable the platform to grow again.
Now we're teetering on the brink of falling into the black hole that has darkened other promising, shining systems.
Show us the money
It's a catch-22 situation I fear. To grow the platform we need to be able to run the same type of software and have access to the same type of online services that Apple Mac and Windows users enjoy. However in order to provide the above, the remaining developers need appropriate level of investment to enable them to hire the necessary programmers. Here you can see the never ending circle. The question is, can this circle be broken before the final nails are banged into the coffin?
Government grants are available in various shapes and sizes. Perhaps it is time for the remaining few RISC OS companies to see what funds, if any, they can obtain from the public purse - here and here.
Another option could be to group together and co-fund new developments, something new in the RISC OS world. Whilst not commercial, NetSurf is a wonderful example of the type of program that can be produced should people choose to work together. Result is a quick browser that supports many web browsing standards.
We have had some really good software on this platform in the past. Indeed we still have some good software. With a little tender loving care, RISC OS and its software could hold its own in many walks of life. However to answer my own question. In my eyes, RISC OS and its software compares quite badly at the moment when it comes to Windows.
RISC OS survives because we want it to survive. But is survival enough?
Agree or disagree with Paul? Is there an issue you want to get off your chest? Email us your opinion article ideas, or any other information.
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