Microdigital parades Alpha onlineBy Chris Williams. Published: 14th May 2003, 17:40:11 | Permalink | Printable
They have a website, didn't you know? [Updated 01:12 15/5/2003]Microdigital have this afternoon finally published details and pricings of their new Celeron based Alpha portable, launched at the Wakefield 2003 show last weekend.
When ever we get thanked for running drobe.co.uk, our usual reply is that, really, you should be thanking the people who we report on. However, we obviously rely on said people giving us information and announcements otherwise we have to start burrowing for facts and things often turn ugly. And it's probably no surprise to you that we were growing concerned that our pals at Microdigital hadn't begun cranking the publicity machine and at least sticking to their promise that they'd put details of the Alpha on their website.
Up and until now, all we had to go on was Scottish dealer Liquid Silicon's humble piece on the laptop, but this didn't seem concrete enough. There's also Dutch dealer Desk, but we'll come to that in a bit.
Anyway, one phone call later to Microdigital followed by a brief twiddling of thumbs and ta da, we have a result. The Alpha portable is in actual fact a PC laptop that runs WindowsXP Home and employs VirtualAcorn's VirtualRPC emulator software to run RISC OS 4. We gather Microdigital are aiming at RISC OS users who wish to be mobile and Windows users wanting to try out RISC OS for the first time. The supplied RISC OS 4 is locked down to the portable on a per customer basis and RISC OS Select can be installed and softloaded as per normal.
"The Alpha Notebook, a go anywhere computer", states the Microdigital front page, "that on one hand is a fully featured RISC OS portable with StrongArm performance whilst on the other, it's a fully featured PC notebook powered by a 2GHz Celeron processor running Windows XP a two computers in one solution".
Dave Atkins at Microdigital confirmed to us that any Alpha orders placed now will have at least a four week shipping delay. We were told at Saturday's show that the first batch of ordered Alpha are being posted this week.
Before we got through to Microdigital, we initially made a hasty retreat to the Desk website, Desk being Microdigitaal's European partners. There we found details about the Alpha portable and this newsletter, all in Dutch though. However, one translation later (thanks Systran), it all becomes slightly clearer.
Before the Microdigital site was updated, we were busily reading through Desk's take on the portable, where they scold RiscStation and their doomed laptop mailing list. Desk and Microdigital also appear to be after RiscStation laptop customers still waiting on RiscStation to deliver their mythical ARM based laptop.
Both Desk and Microdigital stress that the portable machine is a 'soft computer', that is the hardware can be updated by being reprogrammed at a later date. Or in this case, the emulated hardware can be updated by upgrading your copy of VirtualRPC. Desk state that VirtualRPC uses a 'just in time' compiler to achieve emulation, which matches the speed of a StrongARM RiscPC. Desk also disclose that the laptop is a rebadged computer which is quite the opposite of what Microdigital told us on Saturday, claiming they designed the product themselves from scratch. Sure.
And of course, all this is in no way a distraction from Microdigital's still late StrongARM powered Omega desktop computer. You might know that the alpha and omega are at opposite ends of the Greek alphabet but we're not cynical enough to predict that the two machines are the beginning and the end of Microdigital. Desk is looking forward to taking many orders for the new portable and Microdigital happily told us the Wakefield event went very well indeed.
You're invited to email Microdigital if you have any comments on their website or products, which we're sure you'll all enjoy doing.
And "in response to public demand", Microdigital's weblog is back after an almost six month break. Monday's entry covers the Wakefield show and features some photos of the Microdigital stand with a mention of their Omega computer and Alpha portable. Microdigital's weblogger defiantly dimisses claims that they couldn't handle the "competition" (read Iyonix) and they have the racing bikes and women to prove it. Which is all you need when selling computers, of course.
Alpha portable details
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