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Price Comparisons

By Peter Naulls. Published: 26th May 2003, 21:17:46 | Permalink | Printable

How much are you willing to pay for that new RISC OS machine?

One of our readers pointed out the price difference between an Iyonix and an Omega of roughly equivalent specification. We thought we'd investigate further, and here's what we came up with.


Looking at Castle's website, there's 3 levels of Iyonix machine. We've chosen the standard option. This includes:

  128MB RAM, 80GB HD, 1Gb network, CD-RW

Yours for 1299.00 UKP including VAT. No real surprises so far.


Get your calculator out - to get a roughly equivalent machine from the prices on MicroDigital's website, you'll have to add together all the items and then add VAT. Not too challenging, but perhaps it'd be nice if that was provided at-a-glance for prospective customers. Here is what we get:

  Standard base machine (1149.00), 128MB RAM (14.00),
75GB HD (90.00), CD-RW (124.00), XScale (179.00),
100MBit Network (45.00)

Which gives us a total of 1881.18 UKP once we add in VAT.


Just to be comprehensive, we gave CJE a ring (thanks guys) to see what they'd sell us a RiscPC for. Here's the machine we asked for:

  StrongARM RiscPC, 32MB RAM, 2MB VRAM,
RISC OS 4, 10Mbit Network, 1GB HD

Yours for 490 UKP.

Hold The Phone

Is this comparison fair? Well, not especially, but we presented it initially without any justification, because this is what a prospective buyer without too much background information might first see.

Let's try and explain the nearly 600 UKP price differential. For starters, we realise many of the components added into the Omega to bring it up to comparable spec. are standard PC parts, and could be bought cheaper elsewhere. As always, you run the risk of it not being 100% compatible, and not having support, but the choice is there.

And yes, you can certainly get a RiscPC of that spec. or greater much cheaper on the 2nd hand market, but we're talking about getting a machine from a dealer.

You Missed Something

Yes, we did. Depending on what software you need 32-bit versions of, your Iyonix purchase might need a few upgrades from items you already run on your existing machine. CJE helpfullly tell us the following:

  PhotoDesk (42.00), Artworks 2 (50.00), Ovation Pro (Free),
Aemulor (50.00), Impact 3 (25.00)

Naturally, this list isn't without justification, and there are items that can be added and removed depending upon your individual needs. We figure that it's going to cost you no more than 200 UKP to upgrade your software, and probably a lot less. For this comparison, we'll say 100 UKP.

Bundled Software

Of course, the Iyonix comes with a range of bundled software - in theory everything you need for a basic system, including CDBurn Lite, Oregano 2, Messenger Lite, etc. We'd expect an Omega to come with all the RISC OS 4 bundled software of course, but the situation is less clear about things like a browser or CD writing software (but maybe you can use your existing software).

Anthing Else?

We'll note the Omega's XScale upgrade won't be available for some time. Also that if you change the base computer you start with, the numbers can go up or down. We also think it's a bit odd that such an important feature of the computer - ethernet access - is an optional extra on Omega, and we've left out its slightly confusing extra 11 UKP delivery charge, as well as the delivery charges on the machines themselves.


So there we have it: Iyonix 1400 UKP, Omega 1880 UKP. I'm sure we don't have to prompt for comments on this matter.


CJE Micro's

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I'll sell you my A4 for 5000ukp, the battery is duff and the floppy drive recently died, but I consider it my duty to the community to make new RO hardware look reasonably priced.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 28/5/03 10:28AM
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Difficult to compare the two really, as only one is actually available to buy. As you the specs/prices at face value, you should probably take the other things at face value like the various features on the Omega not available on the Iyonix at any cost. I'm not saying one is better value than the other, but you mention all the prices of the Omega bits, but not the extra features (if they ever appear).

But to get back OT, when you put it like the above, it's a shock how much they both cost, particularly the Omega, but maybe they'll do something about that.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 10:31AM
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Actually I'm impressed at by how much CJE have dropped the price on the RPC, shows what a bit of new hardware does to the old hardware prices.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 28/5/03 10:36AM
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I guess they're just trying to compete with eBay, the prices above must make an RPC/Viewfinder/Select look pretty tasty, I mean, what are you missing out on, really?

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 10:40AM
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I have precisely that - a Risc PC, Viewfinder, and Select. And that's precisely why I went out and bought an Iyonix (on the high street, no less) six months ago. If you want to know what I was missing out on when I only had the RPC/VF/Select, Castle's little chart of comparative speeds (disk, memory, processor etc) may give you some ideas.

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 28/5/03 11:10AM
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Ha, and people say Macs are expensive?

So the two new machines are expensive, but then what do you expect in a low volume market - they have to recoup their development costs some how.

At the end of the day, like with getting a Mac, you make a decision. Are you willing to pay a premium for what you really want, rather than just getting the cheapest "it'll just do" thing? I decided (for various reasons) that I was, and got a iBook, and haven't ever regretted that decision.

If you're on a budget, then you can always get a RiscPC and put it in a tacky PC case and pretend it's an Iyonix ;)

-- Dougal

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 28/5/03 11:13AM
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It's also worth pointing out that many (prospective?) Omega owners ordered their machine before the price increase (999+vat) and took the cd writer offer (50+vat). Also the Omega comes with a 40GB drive as standard now, I think.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 28/5/03 11:22AM
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monkeyson: Yes, I used to be a prospective Omega owner, and I did indeed put my deposit down before the price increase. It seemed like good value at the time (the promise was that it would ship by Christmas 2002, complete with working ethernet, floppy drive etc), and of course the Iyonix hadn't been announced then...

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 28/5/03 11:30AM
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It's also worth noting that (according to the date stamp on the web page) that the prices given for the Omega extras aren't current, and if I remember correctly were published before the Iyonix was announced.

As a result, I wouldn't be suprised if MicroDigital revise their prices when the Omega is finally released.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 28/5/03 11:53AM
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dgs: If the max RAM of an RPC is too low for you, or you don't want to buy a new disk for it ,fine get an Iyonix, and of course the Iyonix is a good bit faster. My point was just that an RPC with Select and Viewfinder, lots of RAM and disk might be about 600, and you'd have to really want the features of an Iyonix/Omega to spend the extra. And of course not be bothered about any fancy podules and stuff.

Walks, I would expect that too, particularly with the Alpha being cheaper, it would be odd for a company to offer a faster laptop than it's flagship desktop and charge less for it! If you want the Omega with all the above stuff it's staggeringly expensive. It's bad enough that the new RISC OS boxes are the wrong side of a grand without one of them approaching 2000!

I know Castle have to pay development costs, but there are alternative platforms out there (Pegasos) which have fewer users than RISC OS (yes, really!) and they charge 300 for a motherboard. I hope MD can offset development costs with all this Japanese work they talk about, making a StrongARM board with some FPGAs on it can't be *THAT* expensive, and maybe they can get the price down.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 12:14PM
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thegman: First of all, my decision to buy an Iyonix was nothing to do with the maximum amount of RAM I could put in a Risc PC. (I never expanded my Risc PC beyond 192MB, although I have to admit 512MB in the Iyonix is very nice to have).

Secondly, your numbers don't add up. The Risc PC example in the article is 490ukp. Just adding Select to that (150ukp for a new subscription?) would take the total way over the 600ukp you mention, even before looking at buying a ViewFinder, a 100Mbit network card, et cetera.

I've never heard of Pegasos (I presume it doesn't run RISC OS), but do remember that selling a motherboard and selling a complete system are very different things (you need to make sure ethernet and floppy drive work, for example :-) )

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 28/5/03 12:51PM
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An alternative method of comparison would be to take the two base machines without any extras and compare the prices together with what you get.

I note that the base Omega, after adding 17.5% VAT, is roughly 50 pounds more than the base Iyonix but I still haven't seen the spec for the base Omega.

I also note that none of the prices quoted include a monitor.


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 28/5/03 12:57PM
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Unfortunately, the base level Iyonix and Omega don't really equate to a comparable machine, hence the way in which the comparison is made in this article.

A monitor is not included, because it has no real bearing on the relative costs of the machine (you can get one anywhere), and prices are much more volatile than that of the machines.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 28/5/03 1:04PM
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dgs: If you buy everything at list price, brand new, then yes it's expensive. I just think that as most of us here have RPCs, to upgrade them to a reasonable spec is very cheap, and IMHO the Iyonix is not very compelling compared to upgrading what I have. If was an artist, then maybe I would, as I understand Artworks is a great deal faster on the Iyonix. But I think most of us here are just plain ol' enthusiasts who don't need the features of an Iyonix, but if it were a bit cheaper, could maybe justify the cost.

Pegasos is an Amiga-like machine, it runs Morphos or Linux on a 600MHz PowerPC. If you have not heard of Morphos, you're not missing much ;-) But jokes aside, it's v cheap and you can buy a pre-assembled one for about 600. It just shows that small runs does not mean very expensive if you do it right.

I don't think it's *that* different to make a board or sell a complete system,if you've got a working mobo, then it's not rocket science to turn it into a desktop PC. If we're talking about MD's technical problems, then I would tell them to not bother with floppy (this is 2003), and to focus on Ethernet, which is utterly critical, I would find a machine without networking completely useless at home or at work.

Chocky is correct about the base machines not being all that comparable (on paper, anyway), but I think it's also true that while the Iyonix will likely be 2x as fast as a base Omega, an Xscale Omega a 1Gz could approach 2x as quick as an Iyonix at any price scale. Disclaimer: I know clock speeds often don't mean sh*t, and bus speeds, RAM, blah, blah.. But as the Omega is not available and no concrete specs are available, then that is we have to go on.

The article is of course right about the use of PC parts and how they could be got cheaper elsewhere, so maybe the Omega could be cheaper than it appears. As for compatability, it only takes one of us to buy a cheapo CDRW or whatever to try it out.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 1:30PM
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This really isn't an area I want to get into, because it's a minefield, but 1GHz Omega could end up anywhere from being slower than Iyonix up to 1.5 times faster (or even a bit more). Remember the Omega's slower bus, (too many) unknowns about ARMTwister, overclocked processor normally rated at 733Mhz, etc, etc, etc. "blah, blah", as you say.

As for RiscPCs - there are certainly instances where you can find a completely souped up machines with *everything* for 250UKP or even less. It depends how much shopping around you want to do.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 28/5/03 1:44PM
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Aww, you started it!

Yes, speculation, however much fun, won't tell us anything about the Omega and how it compares to the Iyonix. On the subject, has anyone had even a nod or a wink about when their Omega or indeed Alpha is going to show? (I've given up asking if anyone actually *has* one...)

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 3:31PM
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People don't need to be "an artist" in order to want a computer faster than a Risc PC. In fact, "plain ol' enthusiasts", as you put it, are quite often the people who *do* want something faster. (Someone who uses their computer only for word processing might be happy with just a RiscStation, a typical enthusiast probably wouldn't be).

In addition, there are plenty of ordinary RISC OS users who run Artworks, or Photodesk, or a web browser, or some other application that benefits from a big speed improvement. These users are almost all ordinary enthusiasts, not professional artists or suchlike.

Yes indeed, a Risc PC can be upgraded relatively cheaply, however not to anything even remotely like the specification of an Iyonix. It's a poor investment to keep pouring money into a computer that's headed for the dustbin.

The Iyonix is cheaper than the original Risc PC was, even more so if you take inflation into account. Sure it'd be even nicer if it were even cheaper, but that's going back to all the arguments over RISC OS 4 and people saying they wouldn't buy it unless it was half the price.

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 28/5/03 4:06PM
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Much as we'd like to see everyone upgrade to a nice fast machine, the prices in the article dictate otherwise, especially for students or similar - the appeal of a machine which still serves the majority of RISC OS users for only 200-300UKP is quite strong.

What I'd really like to see is those RISC OS 3.1 (or worse) hanger ons finally upgrade to a SA RPC machine, now that it's so cheap to do so. If nothing else, this can generate a few more RISC OS 4/Select sales, etc.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 28/5/03 4:26PM
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As a developer, I /don't/ want a fast or powerful machine - I'm happy to stick to my Ro4 SA RPC so that I can see what happens on a mid-range machine.

I've got a RiscStation R7500+ that I can use for testing on a slow machine.

If I want to test on a faster machine, or a higher version OS, I currently can't, but at the moment, I don't see it as a priority.

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 28/5/03 4:28PM
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I can't say I'm particuarly happy with my RPC700 (3.6) any more; in fact, I'm extremely unhappy. I'd like at least an SA machine.

It's a choice between that and an IYONIX. If I can save up for an IYONIX by Christmas, I'll get that; otherwise, I'll go for a second-hand SA.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 28/5/03 4:38PM
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As always, requirement for a faster machine depends on your requirements. But agreeing with Chocky again (must not let that become a habit) I can't see why we still have people with A5000s and under with the price A7000/RC machines are.

Agree with Tribbles, I write most of my software on machines slower than most people will have, so if it runs OK on mine, it'll run great on most users' machines.

I know maybe the Iyonix is cheaper than when the RPC came out, but PC prices are a teeny wee fraction of what a PC cost at the time, for a machine massively more powerful in every respect.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 28/5/03 4:41PM
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Are there really that many people with pre-Risc PC machines? Discounting Virtual Acorn, I thought the majority of people would have upgraded by now.

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 28/5/03 5:24PM
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Most of the 3.1 machine owners I know have upgraded ... to PCs.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 28/5/03 5:50PM
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Silly people.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 28/5/03 5:57PM
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Is that an upgrade or a retrograde?


 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 28/5/03 7:51PM
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I don't actually see Castle's price for Iyonix as unreasonable. It's a completely new motherboard running a heavily-revised OS (plus royalties to PACE, I imagine) in a minority market, with superb support. And the product is damn good too.

I don't see Omega's price staying at the level quoted here but until they ship it, the whole thing is irrelevant. Surely there are some machines out there now after the 'next week' promise at Wakefield? Then we can judge.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 28/5/03 10:22PM
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Next 'week'? I thought they said 'Next Wakefield' -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 29/5/03 12:35AM
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*ponders when they'll bother to accelerate their graphics chip* My VF card inside my SA RPC would still beat it in general desktop use. sigh. -- Ian Hawkins (g0tai)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 29/5/03 9:13AM
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Hmm. So for an extra 300 more than the Omega, I can buy three PCs for my office with 2.4Ghz processors, 512Mb DDR Ram, 48x CDRW/DVD combos, 100Mbps ethernet, 6 USB2 ports and a damn sweet GeForce4 graphics card. Plus a load of bundled software and access to industry standard products such as Macromedia Flash, Quicktime, Adobe Premiere, Photoshop and Freehand.

So - where's the comparison? There is none. If you want to waste your money buy a stereo system (or get out more and go for a three week activity holiday or something) -- RISC OS: Really Is Software Coding (for the) Old Skool.

 is a RISC OS Useriamnotamused on 29/5/03 9:30AM
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Mark: I've come across the term "Crossgrade" before...

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 29/5/03 9:34AM
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iamnotamused: ah, but do they run RISC OS natively? no? thought not. Thus your comment is no more than trolling.

(note to self: don't feed the trolls)

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 29/5/03 9:35AM
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chocky : you seem to be agreeing with me on the 3.1 owners... As I said on the state of the market thread (and in the forum), it's the 3.1 owners who should be targetted (still) to get the new hardware. Second hand is okay for cash flow, but for development, they need to be buying new machines, be it one of the ARM7500FE boxes, SA RPC, Iyonix or Omega.

Pity someone can't write a destructor for 3.1 machines and widely distribute it ;-p

class destroy { public : destroy(); ~destroy() {std::cout << laugh() << std::endl; std::string laugh(); private: std::string giggle; };

std::string destroy::laugh() { giggle = "You're machine will die in 30 seconds. The HD will be fine, but you will need to invest in a new RISC OS machine and actually do something to support the market instead of bitching on. Have a nice day...."; }

caveat : will need to include OS_Byte 129 to detect the OS version incase someone using this on a non OS 3.1 box.


 is a RISC OS UserNodoid on 29/5/03 9:37AM
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At any of those prices, the price is very high, and very unconducive to having new people try the platform. A whole new PC with monitor can be bought where I live for a similar cost as a RISC OS licence. An Iyonix equals a 2nd hand car or a deposit on a house. A 2nd hand RiscPC is as hard to find as hen's teeth and probably fetches a like price. So while I'm interested in RISC OS, there are certain barriers...

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 29/05/03 3:33PM
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A deposit for the cost of an Iyonix, must be a cheap house!!

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 29/05/03 3:41PM
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Second hand RPC hard to find?! You could phone any Acorn dealer, and they would be able to sell you one for < 300 with StrongARM.

Yes, brand new RISC OS machines are very expensive, but second hand ones can be had very cheap, if you just want one to try out, maybe get an A7000+ for about 50.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 29/05/03 3:42PM
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If you just want to try it out you can get VA for thirty quid.

I'd imagine that anyone without a home computer that's not already an Acorn fan isn't going to buy an Acorn of any type as a first computer these days. They'll most likely get a PC. If they already have a PC thought you can try get them hooked on VA (it's cheaper and takes up less desk space).

The cheap RPC deal I imagine is only of tempation to those people (like my good self I guess ;) that have a pre-SA machine and want to upgrade.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 29/05/03 7:57PM
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I hate pages that automatically turn smilies into images as it leads to problems when you try and close text in parenthesis with a smilie.

Grrrr etc.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 29/05/03 7:59PM
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What about the Casle Nuron/Cortex project. Couldn't these motherboards be made into computers and sold cheaper than a A7000+ or SA RiscPC?


 is a RISC OS Usersebgate20 on 29/05/03 10:26PM
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Yes, but is it worthwhile for Castle to sell more RiscPCs? Not really. They're in the business of selling Iyonixes, that is where their future is.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 29/05/03 11:36PM
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I doubt you'll get many people hooked on an A5000 under emulation, I mean it was good in it's day, but just nostalgia these days. VA is good for people who need RISC OS on a laptop for example, but it's not going to get users, because it's going to look pretty crap next to XP (not that I've used XP, but I'll go out on a limb and say it's a better computing experience than RISC OS 3.1).

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 30/05/03 00:23AM
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Of course, we can't even get PC users hooked on RISC OS by getting them to try out RISC OS 4/Select on VA RiscPC, as ROL/MD/VA/Pace (?) in all their "wisdom" have for some reason locked the software to the Alpha laptop, that no non-RISC OS user would buy, and most current RISC OS users wouldn't either....

Why do RISC OS companies repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot?

You could probably sell VA RiscPC and a copy of Select for more than a 2nd hand RiscPC, and to a wider audience...

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 30/05/03 00:42AM
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For some reason, you're assuming I'm in the UK :)

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ via on 30/05/03 04:16AM
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chocky: "They're in the business of selling Iyonixes, that is where their future is."

With all your insider knowledge, could you let the rest of us know Castles business plan?

 is a RISC OS Usersmink on 30/05/03 09:34AM
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smink: Any one with half a braincell could see that CTL's future is with the Iyonix. Obviously you are lacking that half braincell.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 30/05/03 09:39AM
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For some reason you think that dealers (or even people on ebay) are incapable of shipping the computer to you. :)

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 30/05/03 09:41AM
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Justme: You mean... theres.... Acorns...outside.. the... U... K...?

As for Select being locked to a certain laptop, yes, that's crap, but I doubt Pace cares, as the pittance it would bring in would not be worth getting one of their lawyers to look over it in his/her lunch break.

I guess RISC OS companies shoot themselves in the foot because if you take a chance, yo might end up shooting yourself in the face. Castle could reduce the price of the Iyonix, but if sales don't follow, then they've thrown away revenue needlessly, OTOH of course, sales could increase, same goes for MD and even (snigger) RiscStation.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 30/05/03 10:22AM
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smink: As jmb correctly states, it's pretty obvious, and has nothing to do with insider knowledge. Castle simply aren't going to make money on selling old technology (revised or otherwise). It's a simple business reality.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 30/05/03 10:31AM
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jmb: Unfortunately all my braincells are intact, so I don't have your advantage.

chocky: I'm not doubting that Castle will sell many Iyonix, but I do doubt it will be in the form in which it now exists. If the Xscale board it uses becomes more useful for the project for which it was originally designed, then what happens to the RO desktop market?

My origianl question about business plan should have been more specific to the RO market, and their future support for it.

 is a RISC OS Usersmink on 30/05/03 11:26AM
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Xscale board designed for something else? Really? What? (Not being sarky - generally interested to know.)

 is a RISC OS Userzeeb on 30/05/03 12:01AM
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Reference boards for big manufacturers to try out Xscale and evaluate it for other products.

I also doubt it'll be in the same form, I think they may try to make a smaller cheaper box without PCI and all the rest, well, I hope they will.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 30/05/03 12:09AM
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I reckon Drobe ought to do a poll and find out if and why people would want to buy a RISC OS computer, not just based on price. Unless of course, the only reason is going to be 'because I'm an enthusiast' - oh dear :(

 is a RISC OS Useriamnotamused on 30/05/03 2:48PM
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Castle made neuron boards (based on the ARM7500FPE] they also has a StrongARM one in the works, so an xScale one is not beyond reason. The at the same time made RISC PC's, developed the Kinetic SA board and ultimately the Iyonix. So *why* should them selling yet more development boards represent a problem to the RISC OS market ?

Windows can be found in many unexpected places (I even recall seeing a hard disk recorder/mixer that had a "blue screen of death" that clearly identified it as NT - in normal use it would have appeared to be a piece of music recording gear). Point is those uses have *not* damaged Windows, and neither would Castle selling large quantities of simple xScale boards. If anything the economy of scale might kick in and help them *either* lower the price of Iyonix - or help fund further development of RISC OS - in either event what's the problem.



 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 30/05/03 3:11PM
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I've got no problem with them making reference boards, but although they make the Neuron, we've no idea if they've had any takers, let alone in significant numbers.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 30/05/03 3:15PM
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Just to bring people up on the 3.1 points.

I was lucky enough to be able to buy an A5k new, it still goes but my main RO machine remains the A5k Mk2 which replaced it in ~97. Only in the last year have I been able to afford the A7k or RiscPC sitting ontop of the PC I'm writing this on. The A7k (~35 from Wakefield 2002) is dilligently running !Webjames all day everyday & the RiscPC (70 from Wakefield 2003) awaits my rapidly decreasing ammount of free time to prepare it for my preferred configuration and disc structure amongst other things.

For some of us buying the latest RISC OS machine is a pipe dream, I'd like to support the platform more but I have a family to feed & my wages only go so far. To refer to everyone stuck on 3.1 as leaches is unfair in many ways and shows more than a touch of arrogance.

Just my 2p.

 is a RISC OS Usercleminan on 07/06/03 01:24AM
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    RISCOS.org.ukRISCOS.orgRISCOS.infoFilebaseChris Why's Acorn/RISC OS collectionNetSurf

    Non-RISC OS:
    The RegisterThe InquirerApple InsiderBBC NewsSky NewsGoogle Newsxkcddiodesign

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