A6: It's a Windows PC, dammitBy Ian Chamberlain. Published: 18th Dec 2003, 00:05:51 | Permalink | Printable
Ian Chamberlain weighs up the A6, VVRAM and emulation vs. nativeOpinion Last week Stuart Tyrell Developments revealed to the world their Virtual VRAM development, a new software technology that allows users of their A6 Windows XP computer to achieve better screenmodes under an emulated RISC OS.
Stuart Tyrell said that "VVRAM allows users access to the enhanced screenmodes available to the A6's Geforce4 graphics controller, giving large true colour RISC OS desktop operation". Resolutions of 1600x1200 in 16 million colours are now possible in the emulated RISC OS.
While this is a welcome enhancement to the A6, it seems a little frustrating that this development will benefit relatively few RISC OS users. RISC OS emulation has been billed as a way to attract more users to our beloved platform, allowing people to buy a relatively inexpensive solution to install RISC OS on their existing MS Windows computers. We must, therefore, assume that most copies of VirtualRPC have been sold to individuals. But will these good people benefit from STD's development? No.
VirtualAcorn, who developed VirtualRiscPC-SE which is used in the A6, has told Drobe that they had nothing to do with the new VVRAM addition. One other RISC OS dealer commented to Drobe that they would prefer to stick to "VirtualAcorn approved add-ons" in order to avoid a VRPC-SE feature split similar to the ongoing USB rift. STD wouldn't reveal how their VVRAM technology works, claiming it was "commercially sensitive".
STD are clearly trying to deliver incentives for buying their hardware and software combinations. This makes good business sense, of course. But we must question their motives.
Emulation, we were told, would mean that users would fall in-love with RISC OS and provide good incentives to buy 'real' native RISC OS hardware.
What has STD done on this front? STD has been responsible for a number of brilliant hardware solutions for older computers, such as the A7000 and RiscPC. They've supported projects to give us fast networking, USB, PS2 mice (on the RPC) and this Drobe writer is very happy with his cute, little MP3 player. For this we must congratulate them.
But what have they delivered for the 'real' new-generation RISC OS computers like the Iyonix pc? Well nothing, apparently.
STD obviously have their own vision for the RISC OS market, and it's no surprise that they market their A6 as a 'RISC OS computer'. And the VVRAM announcement this week, which reveals their intention to develop custom software for their own solution, further entrenches this vision.
Those users who have been lured into buying 'real' hardware after their brilliant experience on an emulated RISC OS solution might be confused by STD's marketing. And if they do realise that the Iyonix and Omega are the only genuine offerings, they might wonder why STD is doing very little support them.
Some may not think this is a bad thing. STD clearly don't. But it's quite upsetting when we hear firsthand from a user who bought a so-called RISC OS computer, from a dealer who shall remain nameless, only to find that it runs Windows. Technical people may laugh, but to those end-users who are simply users, this was a confusion just waiting to happen.
Emulation is not bad. In fact it's very good, for the reasons I have outlined. But all of the main market-players also need to be behind the real hardware that is paving a future for our platform. They must also create a clear distinction between what is emulation and what is real hardware.
And lastly. It is obvious that dedicated RISC OS users are buying the new hardware that is now available. You only need to visit your local usergroup to discover that this is true. No longer is it an excuse to say that there are not enough people using the new hardware when asked, 'why are you not developing hardware and software solutions for the Iyonix and Omega?'.
Stuart Tyrrell Developments have, in response to this article, declined to exercise their Right to Reply but have instead strongly urged us this afternoon to correct one or two things. In our defence, we'd like to add that we publish only what we strongly believe is correct at the time of writing, all presented in good faith and in the public interest. We also do not, as a policy, make editorial changes to articles without letting you know. Here's the update:
[1: STD would like us to stress that it is entirely possible that their VVRAM technology may benefit more users than we originally suggested, because there's always the possibility that the VVRAM technology could be licensed to third parties in the near future.
[2: STD insist that they could not have possibly misled or confused any customer on the PC vs. RPC marketing issue as the nature in which orders for A6 are placed would avoid this. Thank you. - Ed
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