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MicroDigital expands mobile RISC OS range

By Chris Williams. Published: 4th Oct 2003, 02:12:48 | Permalink | Printable

17 inch Pentium 4 Alpha laptop spells overkill or anywhere heaven?

MicroDigital have this weekend expanded their Alpha laptop range with various new models. MicroDigital's brainwave of taking unbranded Microsoft Windows based laptops and emulating a RiscPC on them in order to run RISC OS is proving to be a success, the West Yorkshire based company claims. Scottish dealer Liquid Silicon got the scoop by posting online a revised price listing, but then to our surprise, MicroDigital updated their website.

The Alpha Standard and Alpha Pro are no more and instead Alpha models are listed with a new M1 to M5 designation. The M1 is a low end 14 laptop, the M2 being a mid range 15 laptop and the M5 is an eyecatching 17 offering. MicroDigital state that the new models are in reponse to customer requirements, so then perhaps nothing to do with the recent general release of VirtualRiscPC.

The beefy 2.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor in the M5, coupled with VirtualRiscPC and RISC OS 4, appears to undermine the StrongARM powered desktop Omega model and could indicate a shift in company focus away from in-house designed hardware we can't remember there being any mobile Intel system in MicroDigital's fantastic multicoloured Spectrum project, though. Will there be a time when MicroDigital, or any RISC OS dealer for that matter, would recommend a portable emulation solution over an in-house engineered, native RISC OS hardware product?

While MicroDigital's technical people slave over the finishing touches for the Omega range (little things like networking, USB and documentation), you might be asking who is therefore behind the Alpha? We could be way off the mark here but, having delved a little here and there, MicroDigital's laptops appear to be very similar to Fortune Technology's laptop range, in terms of specification and case styles. If this is true then, at least according to websites like laptopsforless.net, it would appear that actually the Alpha laptops could almost certainly originate from Clevo, a Taiwanese electronics firm.

A MicroDigital employee at the Wakefield 2003 show insisted that it was MicroDigital who had designed and built the Alpha laptops, which we assumed was sarcasm or something. Check out the press clipping for Clevo's 17 laptop that closely resembles the Alpha M5. Of course, the RiscPC emulation software at the heart of the Alpha range was developed by VirtualAcorn with RISCOS Ltd., who produces RISC OS 4.

Today's portable news coincides beautifully with Psion's new XScale packing Netbook Pro. While Psion's news helped re-open RISCOS Ltd.'s RON wounds, it reminded us that as a native portable is still some way off, the double edged sword that is hardware emulation has now for many users become an acceptable alternative to the real thing.


MicroDigital Liquid Silicon's Alpha price list

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17" laptop seems to coincide with the move away from having portable laptops, towards having laptops which are just desktop replacements.

I wonder if one of these with the 3.06GHz P4 could out-do an Omega - must at very least wipe the floor with a Kinetic, seeing as a 1.5GHz can generally outperform a J233.

I thought Psion went tits up last year?

-- C'mon, mod me down, PUNK!

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 4/10/03 2:20AM
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I was certain Psion went, as you desicribe it perfectly "went tits up". Hmm, mabye some has just bought the name and technology?

 is a RISC OS UserFedorenko on 4/10/03 4:32AM
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Strange that the M4 has a higher performance processor than the M5. They don't mention if the P4 processor in the M4 is an "M" (mobile) or not.

Do Microdigital sell these laptops for cheaper than the cost of a no-name laptop plus VirtualRPC-SE?

Netbook Pro - what? No EPOC? Calling Windows CE.NET "industry standard" is just plain wrong. However, RISC OS on that portable would be nice. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 4/10/03 7:26AM
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I'm not into this emulating RISC OS stuff. Surely the cool thing about RISC OS - particularly with the recent hardware abstraction - is that it can run on tiny, tiny processors using little power.

RISC OS on the new Netbook. RISC OS on something even smaller. That's what we want. Excitement.

Anyway, let's face it, EPOC has been development starved of late. that's maybe why Psion has gone for bankable sh*t. Why didn't they go for some Linux solution or, er, RISC OS?

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 4/10/03 8:28AM
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The key point about emulating RISC OS is that it allows RISC OS to "happen" on devices that wouldn't be practical to develop "pure-RISC OS". Given that RISC OS laptops (and other formats) haven't become reality, emulation gives users an option that they wouldn't otherwise have. Addtionally, remember that schools/businesses often provide machines or grants-towards-machines which aren't RISC OS based. Thanks to emulation, such machines can be made RISC OS compatible!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/10/03 10:09AM
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To quote the vast bitmap that is the Clevo press clipping, "The D470W not only adopts a desktop processor". So, even without VRPC, you get sod all battery life. Actually using it on your lap is going to cook your cojones in short order.

MD are going for the short term cash, from the look of it. With the launch of VRPC as a separate product, why anyone would want to buy (or sell) Alpha is beyond me. However, I don't sell cheapo clones at all anyway.

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 4/10/03 10:31AM
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Psion didn't go out of business, they just stopped making consumer palmtops like the Series 5 (knowing that Palm were inexplicably doing far better than them in the consumer market) and instead concentrated on the NetBook which was designed for businesses and seems to have done pretty well. They might have something to do with the new generation of mobile phones too, but I can't remember what exactly, if anything.

 is a RISC OS Userhutchies on 4/10/03 5:16PM
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Psion, together with Nokia and Ericsson, formed a new company, called Symbian, to develop the EPOC OS. This is now called Symbian OS and is used in most new mobile phones. -- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 5/10/03 2:05PM
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"Surely the cool thing about RISC OS is that it can run on tiny, tiny processors using little power."

Personally I'd rather see it running on dual G5 processors and kicking serious arse on end user power. Having RISC OS on a watch might be cute but also utterly useless. ;-) -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 5/10/03 4:44PM
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Since the new Netbook features an Xscale can't we ask Castle to produce a portable Iyonix based on the machine?

I thought the point of the HAL was to make this sort of project possible - and if not RISC OS why not Linux?

 is a RISC OS Usercynic on 10/10/03 7:06PM
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