Transcript of press conference held by Castle Technology on Monday 21st June 2004
Published: Sun,04 Jul 2004 | Back to drobe.co.uk frontpage
This transcript was written using multiple recordings of Castle's press conference in June, which was held as a telephone conference. Some words can't be made out on any source so are marked as ???. Most of the pauses, "erms", stutters etc., have been removed as it makes reading much harder, although it may give a distorted view of the confidence of certain questions and replies.
|Mike Williams||Chair person, and Castle press contact|
|Jack Lillingston||Castle CEO|
|Peter Wild||Castle COO|
|John Cartmell||Qercus magazine|
|Paul Beverley||Archive magazine|
|Richard Hallas||Foundation magazine|
|Jim Nagel||Freelance journalist|
RISC OS 5 modernisation to cost millions
Castle spills beans on RISCOS Ltd. dispute
Start of transcript
<Mike Williams> Does everybody recognise my voice okay when I speak?
<Mike Williams> I'm not sure that I recognise everybody else's voice because some people I don't know in a voice way as it were. I'm going to wait a few more minutes for Jim Nagel hopefully to join us as well, but the format will be as hopefully you are aware from the emails that I have been sending out, that I will go through names alphabetically and in the first instance there will be one question from each person which is the question that you sent in in advance but of course only the person who has formulated the question knows what it is so will need to pose that question verbally so everybody is aware of it and then Castle have been working on answers to these questions. Once we've been round everybody then obviously any further questions that anybody wants to ask are fine and indeed one or two people, eager beavers amongst you, submitted more than one question in the first instance anyway which you may want to bring up and pose to Castle for the benefit of everybody else who is listening in. I'm not sure exactly how best to deal with it after the first round of questions. We can keep going round people alphabetically but it may be best to try and deal with things on a themed basis otherwise it gets very difficult to follow threads and maybe go back to the first person on the list and see what second question or follow up they want to pose and then have discussion based on that or questions based on that and then move onto another topic and then move onto another topic. I think it makes for a more coherent discussion, question and answer session
<Richard Goodwin> I'm having a problem with the line cutting out, is everybody else ok?
<Many> No problem
<Richard Goodwin> It's just me then, I'll put up with it.
<Paul Beverley> Are you expecting us to remember our questions?
<Mike Williams> I have them in front of me if you've forgotten ??? I can read the question out but I can't express it as the original person might have expressed it
<Paul Beverley> I wrote mine on a piece of paper and gave it to Jack at the show and only he has the actual text of my question. I don't have it electronic
<Mike Williams> Right, well if necessary I can step in
<Paul Beverley> It would help. It was carefully formulated, I would like it to be in its original form rather than me try to remember it
<Mike Williams> Right
<Peter Wild> We've actually got the questions written down here if that helps
<Mike Williams> Right
<Peter Wild> We've also just put the automatic volume control on so I don't know if that's better for anybody
<Unknown> It seems like I can hear you better than I could before
<Mike Williams> When it gets to 10 past I'm going to start going round the questions and if Jim Nagel joins in, then he joins in when he does. Obviously we don't want to sit here too long
<Unknown> I thought we had a presentation first?
<Mike Williams> Sorry?
<Unknown> Are we having a verbal presentation from Pete first? I thought that's what you said?
<Mike Williams> The presentation was a PDF file that was emailed out to you as an attachment. You won't have seen that?
<Unknown> Yes I got that but I thought Pete was going to speak through it
<Peter Wild> I wasn't going to go through the whole presentation because I think that would take up quite a bit of time in itself
<John Cartmell> That could very well run into a football match
<Mike Williams> It was pointed out to me that there's a football match taking place this evening. I think we'll get started if that's OK with everybody and you've all had the presentation that was intended to provide a background to Castle's plans for RISC OS into the future and questions relating to issues that you are aware of recently and that presentation were all part and parcel of what the conference was to be about. So, if we start off with Paul, do you want me to read out your question?
<Peter Wild> Mike, before we go any further what I didn't finish saying was that what I would like to do is just give a very brief introduction of kind of our vision for the future of RISC OS just to set the tone at the start
<Mike Williams> Right, OK, fine, no problem at all, off you go.
<Peter Wild> The other thing I would just mention so that everybody's aware of it before we go to far is that we are actually recording this so that we can put together a transcript afterwards so we can pass that around to everyone and everyone knows what's been said
<Jack Lillingston> We may need to change the tape from time to time as well, I'm afraid we're using archaic analogue recording equipment
<Peter Wild> I think to start off, and hopefully you've all read the presentation slides that were sent to you, but as a kind of upper level above that, is the concept that ARM are currently selling around 500m ARM processors a year. Our real vision is to see, I wouldn't say RISC OS running on every single one of them because Microsoft don't get Windows running on every single Intel processor but it would be a nice goal. But even 10 percent of 500m would be an exceedingly large number from where RISC OS currently stands. So, we kind of look at the market from that perspective. Maybe ??? a little bit in the sense that of course RISC OS won't run on every flavour of ARM processor out there, we are dependent on the more sophisticated ones having a memory management unit, so that does cut that number down a little bit but it's still a very large number, something that we very much feel is a target market for us to go for. Really to follow on from that, we are, as you all know, a small group of companies in the RISC OS space and at the moment not achieving more than a few thousand at most sales a year and that's something we want to change. We want to change that both by increasing sales into the desktop area and by increasing sales into the embedded space. Now one of the problems we see with RISC OS at the moment is there's still a lot of things compared with the major operating systems be it either desktop or embedded offerings that RISC OS doesn't have and we feel that to move it into those spaces we would need probably an investment of somewhere in the region of UKP8-10m pounds, which is a pretty large amount of money by anyone's imagination in the current state of RISC OS, or even going back to the Acorn days that's a substantially large amount of money. So, our kind of strategy is yes, we'd like to be able to do that but we recognise that's not something we can run out and get tomorrow. So, we trying to grow the business organically to get to the stage where we've got a couple of good embedded wins under our belt, were seen to be doing good things in the desktop space, that we can actually go and talk to venture capitalists and other corporate finance investors with an aim to raising that sort of money. Now I'm not saying that's something that's going to happen this week, this month or even this year but that is the kind of goal we're looking forward to move the company towards. It might sound ambitious and rather crazy to you guys, ?? make it a ??? statement like that, but we really don't think it's that unrealistic when we've seen what other companies in the high technology field have done with a good product and a good business plan. Thats just to give you a bit of a flavour of where we really see ourselves headed with all of that stuff. Now, an integral part of that is being successful in the embedded space and the desktop space and we see the two are vital to each other. We already have a couple of serious embedded products, or projects should I say, which I can't talk about because the details are 100 percent confidential. But they are going to make a very big difference to what Castle is able to do over the coming months and really move our whole roadmap forwards and bring benefits to everyone and hopefully the opportunities to move onto bigger and better things. So, I think as a context setter for this whole press conference that's what I wanted to say
<Mike Williams> Right, OK Pete, you've finished what you want to say?
<Peter Wild> Yes, I could go through the slides in more detail...
<Mike Williams> No, I think we don't want to sit here forever and I think, as you say, it was beneficial to have that information out to everybody in advance of this press conference because it saves spending a lot of time just disseminating information whereas I think what people are after really is delving a little bit deeper into strategies and reasons for what's happening and what will be happening in the future. If that's OK then Pete we'll move onto the first questions, is that OK?
<Paul Beverley> Yes
<Mike Williams> So, Paul, you are first off, do you want me to read out your question?
<Paul Beverley> Well, I'd like to preface it first because after what Pete said, my question sounds a little myopic really because it just was saying "Well what about the desktop market, you're not forgetting us are you?", so it does sound a bit like that but perhaps you can read it anyway.
<Mike Williams> The question that Paul originally had asked was that from the presentation that everybody received, he judged that Castle's main focus is the embedded market and that leads onto the question of how important the desktop market is to Castles vision for the future, so can Castle respond on that sort of basis. Where does the balance lie between the embedded market and the desktop market I guess is the thrust of the question.
<Jack Lillingston> Thank you Mike, it's Jack here, Jack Lillingston. Good evening everybody. I have to say that the desktop market is hugely important to us. At the moment we're obviously at a low ebb for lots of good reasons, I'm not going to go into those. But there are four main reasons why the desktop market is important to us. The first and probably most obvious one is that it's an immediate market for any new technology that we feel might be suitable for the desktop arena. A good example of that is the Iyonix PC and all the different variants but there will also be other spin off products that will come out of the work that we do for our embedded customers. So that's the first reason why its so important. The second reason is that together with the development tools which are very important to our embedded customers the products division of Castle is able to make available for the embedded sectors, development platforms, that's for the middleware and for the application engineers who work to provide the final interface for our customers, and that's a very important part of the market. The third reason is because as RISC OS grows and the feature set expands, under the plans Pete has already outlined, we do hope that we may get to the stage where we can take on some of these larger major operating system manufacturers once again. But we have to move to the point where we have everything in our armoury ready to do that. To try and tackle it at this very early stage is likely just to fail unfortunately. I think the fourth reason is to inspire and culture new generations of programmers. If we can keep the desktop market alive and bubbling it will bring new people in and we will be able to make use of those people as time goes by. That really, I think, sums up the reason why we feel that the desktop market is so important and fits very nicely into our vision of the future.
<Peter Wild> I'd actually just add one further comment to that. I don't see the two markets as being mutually exclusive, there's a tendency to say 'oh it's the embedded market' and 'oh it's the desktop market', but If you look for example at where ARM processors are being used now, one of the most popular processors out there is the Xscale PXA255 which is appearing in all sorts of handheld, PDA type devices, and things like that. And I think we've got an excellent offering in RISC OS to provide something in that space. Something slightly more particular in the embedded market, we're not going to go and compete head to head, maybe not this year anyway, with pocket pc or windows ce or something of that nature but we are looking at some vertical markets which would use that type of technology, and I think there's some immediate spin offs from that into the desktop market and the whole...
<Jim Nagel joins>
<Jim Nagel> Hello, it's Jim Nagel here
<Mike Williams> Oh, Hi Jim, we started about 10 minutes ago and Pete Wild gave just an initial 5 minute overview of Castle's future plans and really talking around the presentation PDF file which I sent out to you and we're dealing with the first question from Paul Beverley which was really regarding the division between, and that's the wrong word from what Castle just said so I appologise to Castle, but really the degree of emphasis within Castle on the embedded market and the desktop market and Pete Wild and Jack Lillingston have responded to that in some detail and Pete Wild is just adding some further comments on that one.
<Peter Wild> I think I'll just finish off there by saying I see some opportunities for the desktop market in new areas like PDAs, it is possible that some of the directions we want to take things in could actually prove more successful than we maybe thought. Outside of our existing band of enthusiastic customers here's some new customers who are buying new bits of technology like PDAs and things like that if we handle that right. And again I'm not saying we're going to succeed in that in the next six weeks or six months but a strategy that takes us off in that direction could open some new doors that haven't previously been thought of in terms of the desktop market.
<Mike Williams> OK, thanks Pete, I think we need to move on to the next question which will be from John Cartmell and it relates to third party licensing I think
<John Cartmell> Yes, thanks very much. In particular responding quite clearly to what Pete said in his introduction and just now, it's this starting from somewhere and getting the opportunity in new areas that Peter just mentioned. Can I have some answer to, the question is what guarantees have Castle offered the current 3rd party developers in regards to the ability to compete freely with one another and even with Castle in their development programs and that's taking into account the maximum ??? cost to license each product sold, and the circumstances under which each license will be granted or not, and provision for shielding 3rd party business plans from Castle themselves. When and how did Castle communicate these guarantees to developers? What I'm looking for generally is the chance for these opportunities to strike up in a whole different range of areas.
<Mike Williams> Ok, over to Castle
<Jack Lillingston> It's Jack again, I will respond to that and Pete may have a few extra bits and so on. I think its important to realise that the future for RISC OS is all about licensing RISC OS to as many people as possible. Acorn were very much a product orientated company and we realise that we must get out and license RISC OS as much as we can. At the moment the RISC OS Ltd marketplace is limited just to a few hundred machines a year, possibly stretching into a thousand, I'm not sure of the current figures. Whereas the potential market as Pete has already indicated can be many millions of units and that's where we want to be. As far as the customers, our potential customers and existing customers are concerned, we need them to feel happy and confident that they can work with us. This is already happening for big companies we are working with, I am talking about multi-international companies, I see no reason why this shouldn't work for smaller companies. As far as the existing licensees are concerned, we have confirmed privately that once this dispute is settled, it is our wish that all AMSs will be able to continue doing the good work that they already do. We certainly want to be able to do that under broadly the same contractual obligations. I have already mentioned to AMSs that there will be opportunities of perhaps giving different contractual obligations if they so wish. We're very reasonable here, if anything leads to a sale, we're very interested to hear from the company and for a properly presented business proposal, that's where we want to be. We've said that privately and I'm quite happy to say that publicly as well now and I'm sure you'll convey that on in the fullness of time. Regarding shielding business plans by AMSs and potential customers of ours, this is obviously a very legitimate concern and many companies would show a concern about that. But as most people in business will know there are proper and well established contractual options available so that all parties can feel safe that their business plans are well protected. That's just the way business works and we see no reason why anybody should have a problem with that. Finally we've communicated these guarantees either direct to the parties concerned or through third parties who are closely allied to the people concerned and have stated this also many times to the RISC OS Ltd's management as well. ??? after the dispute is settled, and in all honesty we want to settle it as quickly as everybody. There should be no reason why the result shouldn't be just as good or better than the existing arrangement. That's the end of that bit, Pete do you want to add anything to that?
<Peter Wild> Well, I think the only thing I have to say, and I've just got a Tematic perspective looking at the embedded space here, our business is licences. We do at the moment provide license solutions where were actually providing a hardware and software platform fully integrated and ready to go. That only gets us so far in terms of the big wide world and the big market that's out there. To grow the business to any appreciative size we have to have other people who are doing things with it, take it on and license it from us. As a first instance of that, who better than the people in the desktop market who already know or understand the technology. That's a much easier sell from our point of view than to someone we've actually got to convince of the merits of the technology. We are absolutely for doing that, that's the first thing I'll say. Secondly, I don't think... we need to have a clear business plan in terms of what the company is trying to achieve, and the likely sales volume and what effort its going to cost us to support and what the benefit back to Castle is from that. We don't necessarily need to know chapter and verse about their secrets and what they're trying to do and this kind of thing. I don't think competition is a problem either, I can see where that concern kind of comes from. It comes from a concerns of a small market place where everyone's looking over their shoulder what the guy next door is doing...
<John Cartmell> I was quoting from Jack there by the way
<Peter Wild> You were?
<John Cartmell> It was Jack who was making that comment.
<Peter Wild> Right. I don't see that. People we're working with the moment are very open with us about their business plans. OK, they want to share them with us under a NDA and strict confidentiality agreement so that it doesn't go any further but they all want to work with us as partners not as some kind of adversaries. OK, in the desktop market that is slightly different where we are also making computers but we also stand to gain out of our competitors making products because we're getting a licence fee on it and more importantly it shows activity in the whole market. I generally believe in business, competition is a good thing, because it stirs up the market and gets things going and gives people choice which they tend to respond to. So from that perspective I think it's a good thing to have, we're keen to promote it not work against it.
<Mike Williams> OK, thanks Pete, again we need to move on. Richard Goodwin is the next one in the list, with a question which in some ways links in with what we've already been talking about I think, which is to do with RISC OS licensing. Richard?
<Richard Goodwin> Touching on the part about competition you were mentioning there, I'd just like to clarify something on page 12 of the PDF. Basically it says the kernel, support for embedded users means it cannot compromise, obliged to protect the sources, no third party access, RISC OS 5 kernel is the only way forward. Given that you've got a contract like that with somebody, I'll keep it short, can you basically... Where does RISC OS Ltd feature in all of this? Surely they have sources to RISC OS? Can you settle this amicably, basically?
<Peter Wild> I think the way I'd like to answer that is by first of all pointing out that, as far as contracts we've got going forward, they are for 32bit operating systems they are for RISC OS 5. They do place on Castle's some obligations of confidentiality as is normal in most of these kinds of contractual arrangement and in particular a desire of those involved that this is not going to suddenly become an open source operating system like Linux has. And when we look around the market place and we see what certain people have done, RISC OS Ltd is a particular offender here seeing that they've had the sources for !Printers on sourceforge for a number of months now despite repeated requests to remove them and repeatedly pointing out to them they are in breach of their licence they haven't done so. That wasn't to say that under the right commercial terms we wouldn't allow some of our partners access to certain parts of the sources. Some of the very low down hardware stuff I think at the moment particularly the HAL that we've done a lot of work on we wouldn't expose to third parties. But other parts of it at higher levels and indeed I've been having exactly that conversation with RISC OS Ltd regarding how we could benefit from some of the Select features within RISC OS 5, what the technical issues would be involved in porting those across. And at a higher level particularly some of the desktop components that probably wouldn't be a problem, but under the right contractual and legal agreements and I hasten to add in the case of one particular company there with an assurance on our part or a comfortable feeling on our part that they'd take any notice of that because if you have legal agreements and the other party completely ignores them then quite frankly I'm not sure they're the kind of company we want to be doing business with. That's really the first thing. The second thing follows on from that which is really regarding the IPR side of it in that we are also very much obliged contractually to make sure that this software isn't getting ripped off and someone can't go and buy or rip off a version down the road to run on the box of someone that's licensed it from us. Again that's a normal commercial thing so in all honesty people who expect Castle just to sit by when someone's infringing their IPR and blatantly refusing to correct that infringement, we can't do it because we've got other pressures that are obliging us to do things. It's not just because we're looking after our own interests here but we're also looking after the interests of our other clients who are paying us a royalty fee and have agreed to use the operating system in a legal way. A second point I think I needed to bring out there. In terms of the point that "were they some obstacle that we're trying to remove" I would say finally the sources they have are for an early version of RISC OS 4 they've taken off in their own direction, they're quite different from where we're now at with RISC OS 5. And I think actually some people would be quite surprised where RISC OS 5 has moved to in the embedded space even since the days of the Iyonix. A lot more works been done on it that's not been shown in public yet because it's part of confidential embedded products but there will eventually be releases that have other benefits in that direction. So, really there's no agenda here that says we want to remove RISC OS Ltd as an obstacle. Jack have you got anything more you want to add to that?
<Jack Lillingston> Yes, I mean, at the end of the day, Pete's about right. The legal framework is the thing that we must go forward with. If we're going out to the market place to get financing, If we want to do big deals with big companies we have to get our house in order and we have to move forward preferably all together and tackle this huge great market, there's huge potential out there.
<Mike Williams> Ok, thanks Jack and Pete, I can see times going to run away with us this evening but again I'm going to move on and the next questioner will be Richard Hallas which is into a different kind of area really. If I could sum it up but I'll let Richard express his question, "are Castle biting of more than they can chew?" but Richard if you could express your question reasonably concisely please
<Richard Hallas> Yes, well that was it in a nutshell really. The way I phrased it was, by taking everything back into itself, including hardware, OS development, marketing and so on, Castle will effectively have transformed itself back into Acorn in all back name. Now, if you're exploring new markets and working with new partners whilst also supporting a pretty vocal market of desktop users. If that proved to be beyond Acorn and Acorn were a bigger company than Castle, isn't there a danger of Castle either of spreading itself too thinly or concentrating too strongly on one area that may possibly fail and take the whole company with it? How can you find a fine line between expansion through diversity and support for the existing customer market?
<Jack Lillingston> Thanks Richard, Jack again here. This is a very important part of the way forward and the basic principle is that we're coming at it from a completely different angle than Acorn were. Acorn bowed out of the market because of... for a number of reasons: Competition from big players, internal conflict, bad management. Our feeling is that Acorn was a company of techies, run by accountants, with its products, apologies here to some people, marketed by school teachers. Nothing wrong with school teachers of course but it was a company that grew up like that. Finally the thing that really crunched it all was the desire for acorn shareholders to catch their eyes on Acorns shares in ARM. You may remember those times, the stories behind it abound. We feel the result was the company was split so that the success of ARM could be repeated and E14 was sold having divested itself of the baggage which unfortunately was the desktop arena at that stage. And of course E14...
<Peter Wild> ...the desktop box area as well. Everything was sold to Pace basically...
<Jack Lillingston> ...and this all was sold to Broadcom 6 months later for 600m pounds. So there was a hidden agenda there and that's the reason why the reel really unwound. But moving onto the other part of your question, we actually feel that there's actually very little that needs to be taken back that's not already within Castle or indeed should be within Castle. We're already making big strides in the hardware development, in the development of the OS and in marketing. Really the only part of RISC OS that should or would be good to come back into Castle would be the bit that was necessary for the AMSs to continue selling their 26 bit products. That's actually quite a small part of what RISC OS Ltd have developed over the years. We would hope that the future would see AMSs considering moving to 32bit versions of RISC OS. We've already mentioned 26bit processors are long in the tooth and no longer, well they're obsolete basically. It seems to us that the activities that RISC OS Ltd undertake are with old technology and we really feel that they can't move RISC OS forward in the same way as we can with our 32bit stuff. If fact our first deal with a major international player will put between 100 and 1000 times more new RISC OS products into circulation than RISC OS have achieved over the last four or five years so we're talking about substantial numbers coming out into the market place. The dispute with RISC OS Ltd has ended with the termination of their licence and it need never have happened if RISC OS Ltd had agreed to sort out the breaches of their license. It didn't need to happen at all. In fact we would have actually much preferred the situation or the option where the status quo could have remained. It would have been a much more sensible situation. But the numerous features of the license and the breakdown of the legal structure meant that the distribution of RISC OS 4 through RISC OS Ltd is now finished, and I realise it's not an ideal situation but that's where we are.
<John Cartmell> Can we have a clarification because we've had so much rumour, what breaches are you talking about?
<Mike Williams> Would you like to respond to that Jack? What are the actual breaches...
<Jack Lillingston> Pete has already mentioned one specific breach but there are a whole string of them in all honesty... and I'll come on to that perhaps a little bit later to clarify that if it would help everybody.
<John Cartmell> That would help
<Mike Williams> I think that would be useful to have the major points of contention or alleged breaches of contract out into this forum but as you say we'll leave it perhaps to the second round of questions
<Jack Lillingston> I think the only real problem with this is that we're beginning to get into the legal area of what's going on and our solicitors begin to sort of look over our shoulders and say well hang on a mo
<Unknown> You mean you've got someone else there with you as well have you?
<Jack Lillingston> No, no just me and a few spiders perhaps but nobody else. No solicitors looking over our shoulders.
<Peter Wild> We know what our advice has been regarding talking about some of this. I'd just like to get back to the question a little bit, because there's something I wanted to throw in there. First of all, Jacks original comment and everyone's view of Acorn, and everyone saying 'oh acorn failed', I just don't buy the view that Acorn failed. Acorn failed in one little bit of what it set out to do, that is the desktop market. Acorn was phenomenally successful in developing the ARM processor and ARM and everything that's come out of that. I'd say that the guys who actually shut Acorn down were phenomenally successful in taking a small management buy out and over a period of 18months selling that off for 600m dollars.
<John Cartmell> Well that is of course what I was talking about, I wasn't implying that Acorn in any way failed technologically speaking but it went from a position of having fingers in lots of pies which is what you're talking about effectively, to putting everything into one basket namely the STB and digital CD markets and of course that didn't pan out in the way they expected and took the company with it. Really that was the gist of what I was saying.
<Peter Wild> No, I understand that. But I think you have to look at some of the other things that went on and I've got a unique personal perspective on this from two sides. First of all I wasn't involved in Castle when they bought out the rights to the RiscPC and A7000, in fact I remember running into Jack in reception at Acorn one day and he was telling me 'oh we're here to talk about this'. Wow, I was quite taken aback that he was seriously going to do that because I was doing some work for Acorn at the time. Subsequently to that, certainly for the last four or five years I've been out of the Acorn market til Jack persuaded me to come back last year, doing stuff in the embedded space, set top boxes in the far east and the US, so I haven't seen some of this, I've only seen what Castle have done since. I think if you take the organisation that Acorn had trying to produce A7000s, RiscPCs and all the stuff that goes with that, let alone the new computer design in the form of the Iyonix, really a bit of a hash they were making of it. And then you look at what Castle have done with the same product with much much less resources, just a better management and focus on what they're trying to achieve because Acorn had very little focus at all on some of those things, I think that record absolutely speaks for itself. The other thing I had a personal insight in, which I think is very important in Acorns failure. I was actually personally stuck right in the middle working on both products for the online media division, the network computer division and ART and to see the way those three divisions pulled that company apart was unbelievable, it was really quite sad to watch and I was right in the middle of that. I think there was a lot more to do with politics in Acorns downfall than anything else. You're probably all aware of that anyway so I don't want to spend to much time ?? history but I think the summary is that Castle is a very very different company going forward in a very careful and controlled growth manner. We're not trying to be too big too quickly, especially right at the start. Our ideal for RISC OS would be 10m in venture capital to go and do some serious things with it tomorrow but we're realistic we know we can't do that, we've got to get a few more foundations under our belt before we can move to that point and that's very much what we're trying to do at the moment.
<Mike Williams> Ok thanks Pete, thanks Jack for dealing with that question. I feel that there's maybe quite a bit more that could be said on that sort of issue but we'll leave it for the moment and we move on something completely different. Sorry Jim Nagel, I'm not saying you're something completely different but I think your question takes us into a completely different perspective on some of the issues although I'm not quite sure how far Castle can go in answering it because it relates to RISC OS Ltd. Jim?
<Jim Nagel> I'm just wondering how the shareholders of RISC OS Ltd are reacting and in fact whether there are any shareholders?
<Jack Lillingston> Right, me again. Of course, yes, the existing shareholders are actually the same, more or less, shareholders that they originally were. Castle is now a 25 percent or just over 25 percent shareholder in RISC OS Ltd. I can't and wouldn't and shouldn't speak for other individuals but what I can do is speak for ourselves and where I see RISC OS Ltd. I really do feel RISC OS Ltd and the 26bit sources that they have have got a finite life left to go. They have been extremely good at providing upgrades for the RiscPC and A7000 computers but they've had very limited success in licensing technology to 3rd party AMSs and I do feel that it won't be long before the time comes when the income from sales of upgrades and AMSs is not enough to keep the company going, arguably we might already be there. The loss of RISC OS Ltd's licence to sell RISC OS means that they're in a terminal position and we feel they really ought to be wrapped up. They have achieved one thing over the last few years, that is they have provided up to date versions of RISC OS for RiscPC and A7000 and they have kept RISC OS going and so they do deserve a pat on the back for that.But at the end of the day we want to move forward in a way that RISC OS Ltd I don't think have ever, they may have wished to do, but I think they ever had the capability to do it unfortunately.
<Mike Williams> Ok thanks for that Jack. Again it's a difficult area obviously because whilst some of the participants in this conference are perhaps collectively or individually shareholders in RISC OS Ltd, nobody here is in a position to actually speak for the shareholders as a whole although it would be interesting to know what their collective views were. Let's move on again...
<Peter Wild> Can I just interject with one little comment there. I would say one of the biggest problems with the shareholders of RISC OS Ltd is actually finding any kind of common opinion among them which is one of the big difficulties in moving anything forward. I think one of the big difficulties the company has had, there are so many people, from what I can gather, in its history trying to pull it in different directions and do different things with it. I think diversity is great but in the shareholders of RISC OS Ltd I think you've got far too much diversity to ever come up with any kind of consensus for moving that business forward in any kind of sensible direction, which is sad but true.
<Mike Williams> Yes, you may be right there, I think my perspective is that the shareholders of RISC OS Ltd came forward in the first instance with a degree of good will to keep RISC OS going but subsequently there have been divisions and disagreements as to exactly what RISC OS Ltd should be doing in the longer term. Anyway, it's not for me to comment on that, let's if everybody's happy, lets move on. Dan Shimin as I explained earlier obviously hasn't made landfall from his ferry to Harwich to join us but he did put a question and I will just briefly put that on his behalf for Castle to respond to. A fairly precise question, which was 'if there is any idea of any timescale for an ARM RISC OS laptop from Castle'. Jack I think you would like to respond to that?
<Peter Wild> I'll give you a very precise answer, which is 'no comment'. And I think I've already dropped some hints earlier on as to directions we might be going in that direction but as to products I think we're not going to say very much but I'll leave Jack to see what he's got to say on that subject.
<Jack Lillingston> Well Pete has summed up what I had four lines down in. So really... where we can we like to engineer a product and have it ready for sale and then tell everybody about it. Developing any software or hardware is fraught with problems and timescales, although with the best will in the world we stick to them, and in fact we did with the Iyonix and everything was produced on time, at least it's better to come out, bang with it, concentrate on the development and then focus on the marketing. That's much the best way of doing it so for the moment, no comment.
<Mike Williams> Right, OK, as I thought the answer to that one was fairly brief. We move on to the last 'questionner', Chris Williams of drobe and I think your question goes very much to the heart of the current dispute that we're aware of between Castle and RISC OS Ltd. So Chris, do you want to put your question?
<Chris Williams> Could you say it because you know exactly what I wrote because I can't remember exactly what I wrote.
<Mike Williams> Sure, I have it in front of me. Chris' question was as follows: Given that RISC OS Ltd have refuted Castle's allegations against them, has Castle considered maybe that their claims are wrong and that they may have to change their stance as far as RISC OS Ltd is concerned? So, I am not aware of exactly what has been said by whom in this respect but the implication is that as of the moment, Castle have issued a press release with regard to their termination of the licence that RISC OS Ltd had and that RISC OS Ltd have responded by refuting any and all of the allegations that they believe have been made about them, so Jack do you want to respond to that. What's the current situation?
<Jack Lillingston> We absolutely know that our.. that we're in the right and we haven't changed our view at all. I think a little bit of history would be useful here. We realised that RISC OS Ltd may have breached its licence soon after we bought RISC OS. We did have several communications and meetings with RISC OS Ltd and the potential breaches were pointed out but unfortunately they weren't corrected.
<Paul Beverley> Could you just remind us when it was you bought RISC OS please?
<Jack Lillingston> RISC OS was bought at the end of June 2003
<Paul Beverley> Thank you
<Chris Williams> Just a minute, could you also comment on what you did buy from Pace?
<Jack Lillingston> I certainly can yes, in fact I'll ask Pete to answer that for you.
<Peter Wild> We have bought lock stock and barrel the entire IPR of the technology known as RISC OS that was owned by Pace. Every single bit of it, including rights to hardware products, software, everything, and including the ??? of licences for third party bits of software that may form part of RISC OS so we have an absolute clear and unequivocal... I've heard rumour elsewhere in the market we didn't buy all of RISC OS, if anyone doesn't believe that, go and ask Pace, it is absolutely, unequivocally clear we own the whole of the intellectual property rights to RISC OS, everything. No doubt about it, tools... even stuff going back to the Master 128 we've got box loads and box loads and box loads of CDs, even back to software on floppy disk and things like that, we have the lot.
<Mike Williams> If I could just come in here and presumably therefore what you purchased from Pace included the licence agreement that they in turn inherited which was the licence that had been granted to RISC OS Ltd
<Peter Wild> That is absolutely correct, yes, the licence was assigned to us. Their share ownership and other rights they had because they had particular rights over RISC OS because of their particular class of shares. Those have all been assigned to Castle... to the extent that actually Pace license RISC OS from us for their products.
<Mike Williams> Right, so we're going back to the original question which was on this issue that RISC OS Ltd appear to totally deny and refute the allegations that have been made against them and how Castle now judge the situation and maybe any indication of what steps you may be taking to bring the whole situation to a conclusion of some kind.
<Jack Lillingston> Yes, and you know... this was raised at various stages by RISC OS Ltd and we put them right on numerous occasions. For some extraordinary reason it seems to keep coming back but the point that Pete was making that RISC OS [Ltd]s licence was 'assigned' in fact is the correct word, along with the purchase but there were other licences with other people because RISC OS Ltd are not the only people who had a licence with E14 originally. There are a whole wodge, I can assure you, of licences and they've all been assigned without any problem, some of them are very large PLCs, and there's never been any question in anybody's mind, apart from some bizarre reason for RISC OS Ltd.
<John Cartmell> Jack was just about to say from my notes that RISC OS Ltd broke the licence just after Castle bought it. What was the problem at that point?
<Jack Lillingston> There were a number of issues, perhaps I can just go on and finish what I was going to say, I think it's very very important that people understand the process here. We suspected things, we pointed them out to RISC OS Ltd, and this is going back into 2003. In December last year out of frustration we appointed our solicitors and we asked them to look at all of the issues because we're businessmen but we're not lawyers. We understand the general jist of licences but we wanted to make sure that we understood everything correctly. So we commissioned them to produce something called an early case assesment which is where they look, the get as I said all the documents and look at all the issues, all the suspected breaches and everything else. They then tell us where and what the chapter and verse is on everything. This is not something that John, Pete or I have dreamt up, this is from our solicitors after proper consultation. We wrote earlier this year to RISC OS Ltd pointing out very clearly which breaches, with our solicitors ???, which breaches had been breached, not necessarily all of them, but certainly some of them and asked them to comply so we could sort the situation out, but unfortunately they didn't and so with due legal progress meant that we wanted to be sure that we gave them every opportunity. We gave them extended deadlines, way beyond the official requirement, and still they didn't remedy the breaches so we were actually left with no alternatives but to deal with... We actually never intended to make this public, it was only because of various things that happened early last week that we had to make the announcements we made. We always hoped that it would be sorted out; it should have been sorted out 12 months ago. But here we are 12 months later still trying to get... and they are very simple breaches to sort out and there are a list of...
<Mike Williams> Can I just come in at this point because it goes back to something that somebody asked earlier and Jack said he would deal with it later on. Jack, can you identify clearly and simply, two or possibly three of the major breaches of the contract that RISC OS Ltd has with Castle as far as this licence is concerned because I feel that there may well be people out there listening who are still not quite clear of the exact nature of these breaches. Now I don't want you to go into all the details because there's no doubt minor ones and major ones but at least to give people two or three points around which to focus
<Peter Wild> Since Paul Middleton... sorry, wasn't going to mention that name. Since RISC OS Ltd have put out a press statement kind of denying that they've done anything wrong whatsoever, which is... I mean it strikes me as kind of playing King Kanute but if they want to put that kind of statement out it's up to them. I think, rather than... answer that question directly, what I'd be more inclined to do is to give you a question to ask to RISC OS Ltd because they are the people who say no we haven't done any of this. The very direct question I suggest you put to RISC OS Ltd management is 'when did you actually last pay Castle some money in respect of royalties? when did you actually put some money into Castle's bank account?'. Then you may like to follow that up with a second question as to how he reconciles the answer he's given you with the fact that there's a right to immediate and summary termination in the licence for non-payment of royalties. It's absolutely crystal clear. I'd just like to know he actually answers that specific question.
<Richard Goodwin> Would it be possible to interject at that point? Sorry this line's gone a bit quiet again. But I've been told that the actual price of the licence has changed and the reason why RISC OS Ltd aren't paying is because if they pay even part of it, it's a... isn't it basically a tacit agreement to the new price which they haven't agreed to.
<Peter Wild> Erm... I think that interpretation first of all is wrong. Attempts to move forward some of the areas they were doing which were not covered by their licence, I know Jack proposed to them some alternative pricing. They never came back and did anything about that they just refused to pay it. Actually they did, they came back with a large amount of irrelavant issues that were actually nothing to do with the fundamental issues we were discussing and that's been a pattern we've seen all along. Every time the solicitor sends them a letter clearly detailing breaches they've made ??? licence and what are they going to do to put them right, we get a letter back from RISC OS Ltd about past bits of history that are irrelavant, and other things that are irrelavant. They have never once addressed the central issues that have been made to them time and time again by the solicitors of what the breaches actually are.
<John Cartmell> Can you comment on whether RISC OS Ltd have been invoiced at the same rate by yourselves as they were by Pace?
<Jack Lillingston> For authorised products, yes
<John Cartmell> Sorry, I didn't catch that
<Jack Lillingston> For authorised products, yes
<John Cartmell> I'm not sure on the implications of that.
<Peter Wild> One of the requirements of the licence is for them to have authorisation from the licensee for any new products. If they haven't got that authorisation then it's not an authorised product and they shouldn't be selling it, period, it's nothing to do with the royalties. It falls outside the scope of the licence if its not an authorised product.
<John Cartmell> So, I was intending just to talk about what you'd mentioned about the payment and about the invoices.
<Peter Wild> As far as the legal position on the licence is concerned, non-payment is not a remedy open to RISC OS Ltd if they want to keep their licence. The licence is absolutely clear, if you do not pay the royalties it can be terminated.
<John Cartmell> Yes, but can I ask again, so that we are clear, were RISC OS Ltd licensed, sorry invoiced, at the same rate as they were being invoiced by Pace?
<Peter Wild> For all of the authorised products that they were authorised to supply under their licence, yes.
<John Cartmell> So did the invoice include something else then, other than the authorised products?
<Peter Wild> I don't know if I should comment on that.
<Jack Lillingston> John, you... you are very well informed and I think that the legal issues here are very very clear. I'm not quite sure on what basis you're asking the question...
<John Cartmell> I'm just following up what's been asked up to now. This is not from outside information, this is just from exactly what's been said tonight.
<Jack Lillingston> We reiterate again, that for all authorised products, they were invoiced at the correct price.
<Peter Wild> And I think, actually this invoicing has come up from the other side because as far as the licence is concerned it is a total irrelavance. it is absolutely typical of the way this whole story's gone
<John Cartmell> ??? trying to way lay rumours
<Peter Wild> Let me explain that part of the licence works. They are required to make a royalty statement and the royalty payment. There is no requirement on Castle to invoice them for anything apart from what they've duly declared and paid in their royalty report as far as authorised products are concerned. I also go back to the point that I made earlier on, we did make a proposal to RISC OS Ltd about looking at some things that were outside the scope of the current licence and we just never got a sensible answer back. We're quite happy to negotiate these points but if people won't talk to us... it's very difficult. So does that kind of set that straight for you?
<Mike Williams> Can I just interject here and clarify one point. With reference to authorised products, does this imply that RISC OS Ltd, in the view of Castle, have produced products which have not been authorised by Castle, and which if they were authorised would be subject to royalty payments to Castle.
<Peter Wild> Yes, that is true, there are some products there that have not been authorised; that is a clear statement. And there are some products there that are not capable of being authorised under the terms of the existing licence.
<Mike Williams> Right, I merely asked the question to just clarify, because this constant reference to authorised products, yes we have authorised them at the same rate where they are authorised products implies that the potential royalties on unauthorised products might be different, but it seems a little bit of a murky area.
<Peter Wild> It's no murky area. The licence... the whole issue regarding the licence is irrelavant as far as those products are concerned because they are not authorised products, therefore...
<Mike Williams> Exactly what I was thinking. If it's not authorised, then it's not authorised. Period
<Jack Lillingston> And they shouldn't have been shipped
<Jim Nagel> Can we be less mysterious and say what products we're talking about
<Mike Williams> Well done Jim
<Mike Williams> There was a question, I didn't hear an answer
<Jack Lillingston> The product in question is Virtual Acorn
<John Cartmell> Is that unauthorised or not capable of authorisation?
<Jack Lillingston> Both. So there's two breaches for you
<Richard Hallas> Could I just interject an offshoot query, this is Richard Hallas here, this is based somewhat on a rumour but I'd just be interested in the answer. One of the articles on drobe says that Paul is reportedly adding that the legal dispute could go on for years. Now that's not going to be in anybody's interest, so what can you actually do about it if he tries to prolong things.
<Peter Wild> Do you want me to answer that one?
<Jack Lillingston> Please do
<Peter Wild> I... There's two reasons why we're where we are. One is because, to be quite frank, RISC OS Ltd is not a company with any money, therefore it's going to take us a boat load of money to go and sue them which we'll end up paying the costs for because they'll just end up bankrupt. The second argument that goes hand in hand with that is we were trying to avoid a big bloodbath in the RISC OS market but other people have chosen to put things into the public domain while we were trying to resolve this issue and we are now where we are. The follow on consequence to this may very well be some pre-emptive legal action by Castle, very regrettable though that may be, we're kind of starting to run out of options here. If people completely ignore us, refuse to address the points we've put to them regarding breaches in the licence and think they've have the God given right to do whatever they would like to do, irrespective of what the legal agreements they've signed up to say, we're fast running out of options.
<John Cartmell> Sorry, can you clarify, are you talking about just RISC OS Ltd here or are you talking about the AMSs?
<Peter Wild> No, we're talking about RISC OS Ltd
<John Cartmell> Right
<Peter Wild> The AMSs... let's be clear about the AMSs as well, just while we're on that area. The AMSs are licensees of RISC OS Ltd. They do not have a contractual arrangement with Castle as far as I'm aware. They are licensees of RISC OS Ltd
<John Cartmell> So who then is directly responsible for the problems that are happening at the moment, with some of them clearly believing that they are in jeopardy if they continue trading?
<Peter Wild> RISC OS Ltd. Because if RISC OS Ltd's licence has been terminated, every copy of product that any of the AMS sells, which they don't then have a legal licence to, is infringing Castle's IPR.
<John Cartmell> So RISC OS Ltd has been in touch with them and said 'you can't trade'?
<Peter Wild> Just one moment because the tape has just actually stopped and I think we'd like to carry on so we can get the transcript for everyone's benefit.
<Peter Wild> Sorry, I've lost the train of what I was going to say...
<Jack Lillingston> Could you repeat the question, John, please
<John Cartmell> I asked who was directly responsible for the problems that have happened at the moment where we've have had two, and information about others, who are either saying they can't trade or there is some sort of limitation in what they are allowed to do and obviously... Pete said that was the responsibility of RISC OS Ltd and I said 'well, does that mean RISC OS Ltd have been in touch and said they are not allowed to trade' because that doesn't fit in with RISC OS Ltd saying they've done no wrong.
<Peter Wild> Well, I'll tell you what should have happened, and what I think anyone else in business would have done under these circumstances. When they received a letter from their head licenser telling them they were in breach of their licence and they had 30 days to remedy it, I would have got in touch with my licensees in a formal way, informing them of the situation and giving them the option to put some input into the decision process about what to do next. It appears from the information that we've got that RISC OS Ltd completely omitted to inform the AMSs about what was going on and the only information they've had is some weeks later when we saw they were still selling their products and we've actually... our solicitors have been in touch with them to point out the fact that RISC OS Ltd's licence had been terminated and therefore the products they were selling were no longer licensed.
<John Cartmell> So that came from Castle?
<Peter Wild> That came from Castle's solicitors but purely to point out to the AMSs that we were aware that they were selling products which infringe Castles IPR because it is no longer licensed due to the termination of RISC OS Ltd's licence.
<John Cartmell> So are the AMSs now under some sort of limitation in what they are allowed to do legally, or what?
<Peter Wild> They don't have... RISC OS Ltd does not have a... let's be quite clear about this, RISC OS Ltd as of the 11th of May no longer has a licence to distribute RISC OS Ltd, that is... sorry, not RISC OS Ltd, RISC OS, that is a fact. The licence has been terminated. It's not kind of something that's open to interpretation. We went through the correct legal process to terminate the licence. RISC OS Ltd management can stand there and say that they've never done anything wrong and this all shouldn't have happened as much as they like. The fact is the licence has been terminated. The consequences of that are that all of the sub-licensees cannot legally supply products licensed by RISC OS Ltd because RISC OS Ltd no longer has a licence to do so. So if they do so they are infringing Castle's IPR
<Chris Williams> Could I just interject there. You said earlier that Castle sent a letter from their solicitors to dealers and AMSs. Can you confirm or deny if that was a cease and desist, for them to stop trading?
<Peter Wild> No, without asking legal advice on that one I can't comment
<Mike Williams> Can I just come in here on this particular discussion. It seems very clear cut as Castle have said that RISC OS Ltd's licence has been revoked, they cannot themselves sell products which contain RISC OS and any sub-licensees from RISC OS Ltd equally no longer have a valid licence to distribute RISC OS. So, if we want to move this whole thing forward, let's take RISC OS Ltd out of the equation for the moment because they are the ones, they are the company with whom Castle specifically have this dispute and to ask if is there anything that Castle can do or are hoping to do by which they can allow these other AMSs to legitimately continue to supply a version of RISC OS in their various products.
<Peter Wild> Ok, erm...
<Mike Williams> because obviously Castle own the IPR as far as RISC OS is concerned. It is within their remit to do this if they so choose to do so.
<Peter Wild> It is not quite that simple as these things never are
<Mike Williams> I didn't think it would be
<Peter Wild> And unfortunately we were we believe well on the way to resolving this just over a week ago. We had some discussions with the people concerned and ??? then slipped out into the public domain and that's made the whole issue a lot more difficult to sort out, from our point of view. The first statement I think I'd make on behalf of Castle is that we have no wish to interfere with the AMSs business. They are a good source of royalty revenue, doing good things in the market. I've already told you what I think about competition. I think it's important that they're all there and doing what they're doing. We don't even have a problem with Virtual Acorn although, what we've said so far, some people may see a different view from that. I think Virtual Acorn is a good product and has a valid place in the market, providing it is done from a licensing point of view of RISC OS in the correct legal and commercial framework, which was not what was happening. The first thing to get across is we are absolutely clear, we want to license the AMSs and we are keen for them to succeed in business. We are not trying to stop anyone selling any products here.
<Chris Williams> So will we see Virtual Acorn and Virtual RiscPC re-licensed with Castle in the near future?
<Peter Wild> We hope so. this is where it gets complicated. If any of the AMSs want to come to us tomorrow and license RISC OS 3.71 or RISC OS 5, we're quite happy to do that and we can do that immediately.
<Chris Williams> What about RISC OS 4 and Select and or Adjust?
<Peter Wild> Well, this is where it starts to get complicated because some of that RISC OS 4 technology we have the rights to because part of the licence requires RISC OS Ltd to feed that technology back to the licenser. So some of that we have rights to. But some of the stuff has been developed independently and we don't know where those boundaries are. So unfortunately at the moment we are actually in a situation where we do not know which bits we can license and which bits we can't because RISC OS Ltd haven't, and this is another breach of the licence unfortunately, they've not conformed to their obligation to feed back source code and developments they made to the licenser. So we don't actually know what they've been doing with this stuff for the last four years.
<Chris Williams> I would just like to point out, it's been pointed out by many sources that they don't have any obligation to hand back source back to Castle or the head licenser and that's actually been quoted by a RISC OS Ltd shareholder so are you sure about that claim?
<Jack Lillingston> ??? ask the solicitors
<Peter Wild> I'll ask the solicitors to doubly clarify that but... it's certainly... it is a complicated area in the licence but certainly a part of it they are legally obliged to hand back the us.
<Jack Lillingston> There are certain terms and conditions that go round that but basically the licence allows or provided for a perpetual royalty free licence back of all derivative works and there were certain ifs and buts around that mainly to do with the ownership, and this is where it really does get rather complicated but there are certainly large chunks which should have been fed back that haven't necessarily been fed back at the correct time
<John Cartmell> So what we have is a situation where you have cancelled RISC OS Ltd's licence, you say and obviously for good reasons, but you are unable to offer a licence to the AMSs, certainly not in the short term, in what they would require to continue with their business... They would require RISC OS 4 or probably RISC OS 4 Select/Adjust.
<Jack Lillingston> That is correct and that is the unfortunate situation that we wanted to prevent happening that inevitably RISC OS Ltd has precipitated on everybody
<Peter Wild> Let me just make a point here because it's important. When we set out down this route, we were just trying to put all the houses in order, get things moving forward so that everyone knew where stood, everything was under control, we had clean control over the IPR issues which is important from some of the other business that we are doing etc etc. Thats where we started, we really had no concept at the time that RISC OS Ltd were just going to try and deny the blatantly obvious.
<Paul Beverley leaves>
<Peter Wild> The breaches are so clear cut. Who did we lose there, do we know?
<Mike Williams> I don't know, somebody left and I don't know who it was?
<confirmation of who left>
<Peter Wild> So coming back to what I was saying, we just found it absolutely incredible the way that RISC OS Ltd management has conducted themselves in this. There has been no attempt to come to us, talk to us, negotiate...
<Paul Beverley returns>
<Paul Beverley> Sorry that was me, my battery ran out on my phone so I had to get another phone and dial in again, sorry
<Peter Wild> When we set out on this process, we expected that there would be some negotiations over the issues and we'd all come to an amicable conclusion and move forward. Someone else just doesn't see the world that way, even to the extent that once we terminated the licence we said 'ok let's try and regularise everything, we'll give you a new licence, lets sit down'. We offered them several meetings in Cambridge... in Cardiff, wherever they wanted to meet us, they actually refused to talk to us, what are we meant to do in that situation.
<John Cartmell> But whatever has happened, you are now in a situation where... you have groups who are, in effect, you're saying are creating... would be operating... would be selling goods that aren't licensed? Is there anything you can do to ensure that they become licensed because otherwise you are looking at a total breakdown of the whole market?
<Jack Lillingston> We realise that John. The crucial thing here is that that can be sorted out, should have been sorted out and can be sorted out very quickly with the cooperation of RISC OS Ltd.
<John Cartmell> Ok, RISC OS Ltd have said apparently, and I don't about this direct, but they have apparently said they are not at fault in their opinion and that as far as they are aware this can go on for years. Now clearly that's hardly the situation elsewhere so do you have any proposals for sorting that out?
<Jack Lillingston> Well we've met with RISC OS Ltd twice in the last three weeks. Both times an agreement, a broad agreement, was reached. Both times things have happened that have shown that that was not done with... I just don't know why it wasn't done. They've come back with different things the day after... done different things. The only way of sorting this out is for RISC OS Ltd to... come and talk to us and get it sorted.
<John Cartmell> You say that there's no way that you can sort it out directly with the AMSs?
<Jack Lillingston> Pete has already mentioned that 3.7 is an option, RISC OS 5 is an option. There may possibly be an opportunity to look at an early version of RISC OS 4 because of what was fed back at a very early stage but I... we're not sure about that and whether AMSs actually want that or not.
<Mike Williams> Does anybody else want to pursue this particular issue or raise any other questions? It seems to me that it is a difficult situation and I do wonder, although I know that comments have been made previously, to what extent RISC OS Ltd shareholders can influence events but we've already heard comments to the effect that their views are not coherent and that they are pulling in different directions, which makes life very very difficult
<Peter Wild> Been there and tried that unfortunately
<Jack Lillingston> Yes, we had a meeting with some of the shareholders on the 12th of January, which was a week ago on Saturday
<Peter Wild> 12th of June
<Jack Lillingston> Sorry, 12th of June, beg your pardon...
<Unknown> Doesn't time fly?
<Jack Lillingston> Indeed. ...where a skeleton agreement was reached whereby we... there was a path to try and sort everything out. But then unfortunately various things happened and it's all been put in the public domain which is where we are now. It was certainly not our intention, it was not the agreement of the meeting at all.
<Mike Williams> Does anybody want to ask any further questions on this particular issue which I know is very much of the moment and clearly is important for the market and for everybody concerned. Which is what happens in the future and particularly with regard to the AMSs who had thought that they were licensing RISC OS from RISC OS Ltd previously.
<Peter Wild> Can I interrupt and just ask you guys a question, because I don't want to see us publicly pilloried for our actions when we've been trying genuinely to move things forward for the benefit of the whole market and we're not happy with the way things have gone any more than probably anybody else is. But... what does anyone there see that we should be doing differently to try and resolve this?
<John Cartmell> I would say that your ability to sort out and advance the market will be tested in the ability to get the AMSs back on track and licensed within days rather than weeks, to be quite honest. Don't ask me how, really don't ask me how. But it's your big test, to be honest.
<Peter Wild> We had that deal on the table with RISC OS Ltd's management two weeks ago and then two days later they say 'oh no we've changed our mind'. What are we supposed to do.
<Mike Williams> John, do you want to come back on that?
<John Cartmell> I think the problem is, for us, although we've been given more information about the breaches, we honestly don't know enough.
<Chris Williams> Can I just interject there. RISC OS Ltd, or sources close to RISC OS Ltd, have said that the reason why they will probably not be paying royalties is because they don't recognise that Castle own RISC OS, hence my question earlier 'What exactly did Castle buy off Pace'. That's probably the reason why, for example, the copyright did appear in Adjust or Select, why nothing ever said copyright Castle, even though Castle are now the head licenser. Given the fact that RISC OS Ltd do not recognise that Castle own RISC OS, would you expect them to pay royalties to a company when there is no basis to pay them?
<Jack Lillingston> Well, it's quite interesting, because actually from July to November they did pay us royalties and they have assigned our A shareholding in RISC OS across from the previous licenser to Castle so at one stage they were quite happy and then they changed their mind which seems to be... what they often do.
<Peter Wild> I think I would... I can see exactly where this piece of information has come from and I would just highlight it; in the press statement we put out a week ago, one of the things we referred to is delaying tactics. This is an absolute classic example of one of the delaying tactics we've been met with - 'Oh, now you're arguing about it we've changed our minds, we don't own it after all' Well how ??? is that, that's just kind of scurrelous behaviour.
<Mike Williams> Can I just ask a question of Jack and Peter here because you're the only ones who would know the answer to this. Have, to your knowledge, RISC OS Ltd taken legal advice themselves?
<Jack Lillingston> We have had letters from their solicitor. I really couldn't answer the question specifically to what extent they've taken legal advice.
<Mike Williams> No, I appreciate that, I was just trying to see whether the views that have been expressed by RISC OS Ltd were purely the views of the Managing Director and any other staff, or whether they were influenced by any legal advice whatsoever and obviously you can't qualify that at all but they obviously have had legal opinion at some stage or other, of some form or other, it is not entirely their own actions we're dealing with.
<Peter Wild> My personal view on that, having seen... been privy to the correspondence and meetings that have gone, is that if they did take legal advice it was either exceedingly bad legal advice or they completely ignored it because I cannot believe that any solicitor would let their client get into this mess. I really can't
<Peter Wild> They're trying to argue black is white. They've tried every book... trick in the book to try and wriggle out of it but never once addressed the central issues
<John Cartmell> That being the case, do you have any proposal that can go forward whereby the AMSs receive what they need. You know the situation, you know what's happening. RISC OS Ltd are reported as having said it could go on for years. Do you have proposals that could satisfy those third party developers?
<Peter Wild> We've had proposals, we've put them on the table to them...
<John Cartmell> Offering then an early version of RISC OS 4?
<Peter Wild> Well that's one option, but even that would take some time to organise. The only outcome that will enable us to do this quickly, and let's be quite clear about this and candid about it, is for Castle to somehow gain ownership or licensing rights for the bits of technology that we don't currently have in RISC OS that we own, to be able to offer that directly to the AMSs and that's the only practical way I can see forward in this.
<John Cartmell> Is there any chance in backtracking until such time as a final legal decision is achieved?
<Peter Wild> I'm not sure there is going to be a final legal decision because... I cannot see a scenario where this whole issue gets tested in court because we don't want to pursue that for the reasons I've already stated. What we're far more likely to do, taking legal action, is to say that here's a company here that hasn't got any money, that owes us a ??? because they owe us a very large amount of money, and that there's some other issues we could pull out there as well which I'm not going to go in to. ??? any money, what do we do, we're only left with one option, which is to try to wind them up. Now the result of that would be a liquidator being appointed who then would have the right to this intellectual property to dispose of as they see fit, at least in what extent is it owned by RISC OS Ltd because we don't know which bits of this belong to RISC OS Ltd and which bits may belong to third parties. So without some cooperation we can't do that and if that is up in the hands of the liquidator, that could go for years in itself. We can offer RISC OS 5, we can move RISC OS 5 forward, we've got plans to move RISC OS 5 forward, but that doesn't help the people who want to buy the AMSs products or the AMSs themselves. We are trying to find a negotiated solution, so...
<John Cartmell> The thing is, no matter who's fault, what the problem, how you got here or anything like that, Castle will be judged on the way they managed to deal with the situation as it is at the moment. That's harsh, but that's the situation surely.
<Peter Wild> Well, I don't disagree with you, but, I think at the same time if you're going to judge us you have to judge us against the fact that we're not dealing, from what we've seen, with reasonable people and we're dealing with what is pretty much an impossible situation. We can go and sort the problem out tomorrow, from Castle's point of view, we can go and apply to wind up RISC OS Ltd because they owe us money and they aren't paying us. That's the simple way forward, but I don't think it helps the AMSs and we've avoided doing that so far, we've kept the thing completely confidential and it's been made very difficult. This needed a negotiated settlement and if one of the parties won't come to the table I'm not sure what we're meant to do.
<Mike Williams> Does anybody else wish to comment or ask a question in this area?
<Chris Williams> I have a question. I hate to keep the subject dragging on because I'm sure we want to talk about Merlin possibly in a minute but you mentioned earlier that Castle went to a shareholders meeting. Given the fact that Castle is a 25 percent shareholder in ROL and it is your opinion to wind up the company, was that meeting to basically try and persuade the shareholders that it was a good idea to wind up the company there and then?
<Peter Wild> No, that meeting... our attendance actually in the first instance to that meeting was to present our plans for RISC OS pretty much as we've presented to you in those slides, to the shareholders so first of all they had the big picture of where we were going and what we were trying to do with things, and see if we could then have a discussion about how we could move things forward and what the solution might be. Let's be blunt here again, one of the possible solutions which would be the nicest solution in some ways, would be to buy out the shareholders of RISC OS Ltd. I've heard this from a number of different ??? that this is what we should be doing but the problem is that the management won't give us any information about the company. We don't know what liabilities we're buying into by doing that. We don't want to be in the position that we buy a company tomorrow that we then have to liquidate because it's got a whole lot of debts that no one told us about. One set of people who are getting a particularly rough deal in all of this is the Select subscribers. They've paid good money to that company... Are the management looking after their interests, they're effectively a creditor of the company the same as we are. I haven't seen any signs of that. We'd have to find the money to repay all those people if we weren't able to move forward with Select if we ??? where it is now, which I'm sure in the short term would satisfy the AMSs but I'm not sure where that would lead in the future.
<John Cartmell> So, are you saying, that if you did that there wouldn't be further development of Select and Adjust and so on as has been planned up to now?
<Peter Wild> It really depends as to whether... RISC OS... taking the hypothetical, and I stress it's hypothetical, option of us purchasing shares in RISC OS Ltd to take control of the company and sort the problem out that way. We have no idea if that is a viable going concern because RISC OS Ltd won't give us the information. We've asked for it, we don't have a clear picture of all their liabilities.
<Jack Lillingston> So we could end up buying RISC OS Ltd and then suddenly finding that there's a gaping black hole equivalent to sort of fifty or sixty thousand pounds, so without proper information... but we have asked for... we can't make a decision on that.
<Mike Williams> If I can come in at this point. I think we've been been batting this particular issue about. We've heard reasonably detailed explanations of what has been taking place, in the background, over perhaps the last 12 months between Castle and RISC OS Ltd. Clearly it is an extremely difficult situation that Castle are in and in a sense it is also no doubt for RISC OS Ltd a very difficult situation that they are in, but is a different one in terms of no longer having a licence, no longer having any income and so forth. I think the comment that John Cartmell made to some extent is valid, although it doesn't help the situation. Castle, in my view, and I think everybody's view, are the major player these days in the RISC OS market and rightly or wrongly some judgement inevitably will be made at the end of the day on Castle with regards to the final outcome of this particular issue. Thats going to be life I'm afraid. You always want to ??? hardest at the biggest company I think. So can I suggest that we look now to see if there are any other issues, any other questions that people want to ask aside from this, I know crunch point of the dispute over licensing of RISC OS and the knock on effects on AMSs ???. So are there any other questions on any other issues or followups from other questions that people would like to ask at this stage.
<Chris Williams> I have a question about Merlin. What are the top three features you'd like to bring with Merlin to the RISC OS platform?
<Jack Lillingston> Right, thanks for that question. As you know we're going through a consultation period at the moment with the industry. I have to say, I'm not a technical enough person to make those comments. We certainly have people within the company who would be delighted to give you their top three and I dare say if you ask different members of staff you'd get a different answer each time. What we are doing is making sure that when we release Merlin, it is released in phases and the work that is done to RISC OS 5 is done in a sensible and orderly fashion. So, we may not find that the expected features are plonked into Merlin in the first release, purely and simply because it is sensible to wait until the second release for other technical reasons. But I can assure you that we have a considerable list of things that we have already identified and prioritised including things I think that certainly that Select doesn't have, certainly that nobody has mooted on the Merlin wish list. But. at the end of the day, we'll tell everybody what we're going to do and then we'll get on with it providing Pete can give me some resource from the programmers because they are very very busy men at the moment, and these things have to be planned well in advance. So it's not an ad-hoc system, it's properly planned and it'll be well worth waiting for.
<Peter Wild> I'd actually just like to throw in a couple of comments there, and this is really more my wish list than what is necessarily going to happen in Merlin but it might give you a couple of pointers to... I don't think it'll be in the first release though some of the elements we've already done have moved in this direction in any case, but how about proper RTOS functionality and pre-emptive multitasking.
<Chris Williams> What was that first one again, I got PMT but I didn't quite catch the other one?
<Peter Wild> Real time operating system functionality, to bring it more into line with some of the other real time embedded operating systems.
<Chris Williams> Oh, by the way, the PDF that was given to all the press, is that still under confidentiality or can we start quoting from that?
<Peter Wild> You're quite welcome to quote from it, I would appreciate if it wasn't distributed in its entire form
<Chris Williams> Ok, thanks
<Mike Williams> Anybody want to come in with a question at all, either on that issue or on something else?
<Richard Hallas> I'm interested in.. this kind of depends on what going to happen with the RISC OS Ltd situation but leaving that aside.. what are Castle's intentions for the desktop market as such and how important is it to the overall business. In other words if Castle want to increase the RISC OS desktop market share as opposed to having it just as a developer platform and supporting existing users. How can it make RISC OS more attractive to main stream computer users and can RISC OS even hope to become a mainstream platform ever again, or is it just too far behind and lacking in support from major software companies.
<Jack Lillingston> I think there is potential there for RISC OS. It may be that it's not necessarily in what we would call desktop and laptop computers as we know them now but certainly, as Pete has mentioned, the PDA area and in particular vertical markets that, as computer technology broadens and there are more and more products, I think there is a very nice niche for RISC OS in there. But of course we've got a lot of work to do, we've got a lot of peripheral stuff to bring on board before we can actually get to the point where we can go to a company and offer them a solution for a notional product.
<Richard Hallas> Do you think you might be able to get into a position where you're able to have people like say Adobe write their software for this platform?
<Jack Lillingston> I think I'd have to say it would be nice but in all honesty at this stage from where we're sitting here that's some way off.
<Peter Wild> I'd be slightly more optimistic in that I think some of the targets we'd like to achieve in the embedded space, there would be more possibility of that kind of thing happening there which then spills back into the desktop market. If we've got a real hot embedded product that actually takes off and starts going places, that people are interested in writing software for, then I believe there may be better possibilities there.
<Jack Lillingston> Pete has a better handle on these things than I do
<Richard Hallas> To me that was always one of the greatest problems when Acorn was around, it wasn't that the platform wasn't good enough, it was that they hadn't talked to enough software companies in the real world for the platform to become widely accepted.
<Mike Williams> Does anyone want to follow that up at all, or are there any other further questions?
<Jack Lillingston> Perhaps I could just say one thing there. John, you've had some... lots of questions to us. If you'd like to at any point follow that up with either me or Pete, we'd be quite delighted to talk to you because at the end of the day you obviously know what's going on and if there is any way that, perhaps using your contacts we can move things forward, let's try and find a way.
<John Cartmell> I'm not expecting you to give an answer tonight, but the outstanding question as far as I can see now, is how do you get over the next few steps?
<Jack Lillingston> Sorry, say again
<John Cartmell> How do you get over the next few steps. How do you manage to get moving forward from where you are now... from where we are now, all of us.
<Jack Lillingston> I think it needs some lateral thinking, some positive thought...
<John Cartmell> I don't ask any easy questions you know!
<Jack Lillingston> I know. Perhaps that's something for us all to think about over the next...
<Peter Wild> I think one of the things that we can all do is to try to explain to RISC OS Ltd's management that there is a way forward here and that things have to change. We've gone past the point of no return in terms of maintaining the status quo. I think the first thing is that has to be accepted as a fact and in some quarters I'm not sure it is at the moment and once we've got that acceptance that things do need to move forward then maybe we can talk a bit more seriously about how we actually bring things to a rapid conclusion.
<Mike Williams> I'm just going to quickly go around everybody and check that there is nothing that anybody is now dying to ask. We've been going now for nearly two hours and I think it's time we came to a conclusion. Obviously, and I'm sure Castle would go along with this, if anybody has further questions that they want to ask they can always contact Jack or Pete at Castle directly and I'm sure they'd do their best to answer any questions. Paul, Paul Beverley?
<Paul Beverley> Just vaguely wondering about ARM, there's a comment about ARM 10, 11 support. Just wondering if there's anything that Castle would like to say about that at this stage?
<Peter Wild> Nothing at this stage.
<Paul Beverley> Ok, fair enough
<Peter Wild> There is some interesting new silicon coming along. That's as far as I'd like to go on that.
<Mike Williams> Right, John Cartmell?
<John Cartmell> I'll keep to that question I last asked
<Mike Williams> Sorry?
<John Cartmell> I'll keep to that last question I just asked, what's Castle's next step.
<Mike Williams> Yes, well I think we would all like to know the answer to that one. Richard Goodwin?
<Richard Goodwin> I think we've pretty much answered my second question about Castle buying out RISC OS Ltd that was being one of the solutions being thrown about at the show recently.
<Mike Williams> Yes, that has come up and I think that has been dealt with and obviously there are issues that whilst it might have been a possible idea it is again fraught with difficulty which comes back to lack of dialogue, that I can judge it from what I hear, between Castle and RISC OS Ltd. That has come up and been dealt with I think. Richard Hallas?
<Richard Hallas> There is just one other think that I'd like to enquire about. This sort of again depends on things with RISC OS Ltd being sorted out, but as things currently stand or have stood in recent times, the Select scheme is a good way for existing users of ??? hardware to keep up to date with new OS developments at a fairly inexpensive price point. I know a lot of people have been saying that the Iyonix is too expensive for them, be that as it may. It seems to me that RISC OS Ltd is providing a useful product in that it is something everyone can afford whereas anyone who wants to take advantage of developments in RISC OS 5 is currently required to buy an Iyonix in order to do so. So, once the situation with RISC OS Ltd is sorted out, however it goes, how does Castle propose to support existing users of current hardware short of forcing them into spending upwards of UKP1000 on a new machine.
<Peter Wild> The first comment I'd make.... I'm very depressed actually by what RISC OS Ltd has managed to achieve in terms of the product they've delivered, the amount of resource they've had to do it with, and the price that they charge for it. Unfortunately you then have to put a commercial head on and say well, actually if you look at RISC OS Ltd as a business they have not been successful, they're people doing it more out of love, and I think you have to give them some credit for that, from the financial reward they're getting for it. The company itself is not operating successfully on the money it's making from that. You do have to say what is the commercial case for doing this. I think the proviso you're putting forward that RISC OS Ltd is a low cost alternative is because these guys are doing it at substantially below commercial rate in terms of all the development work they've done and the way the company is run and everything...
<Richard Hallas> Yes, I accept that, that isn't quite the point, the point is... people are going to effectively have to spend effectively a lot of money on a new machine in order to keep up with RISC OS. That's fair enough in a sense but there's also a danger that they'll decide to buy a PC instead.
<Peter Wild> I agree with both sides of it... From our point of view, we would like to offer something more to Select subscribers but I don't see how long that can keep going if it's not making money. It's only going now because it's reliant on the good will of the people who are involved with it to do the work for virtually nothing.
<John Cartmell> But unless the market has a range of products at a range of prices to suit people, you won't have the software writers receiving any income at all and we'll all be gone. You do need a range.
<Peter Wild> True, I don't disagree with that. But, I think we need... what we need in the market is more lower cost hardware products and some new products are probably required in that space because the existing technology is too long in the tooth.
<Richard Hallas> That was also a related point because... do you have any plans as a company to produce a budget Iyonix or whatever or is that something you'd want to leave to third parties.
<Peter Wild> I think I'll go back to our line that we can't comment on new products. Obviously that would be a desirable thing to be doing.
<Richard Hallas> I mean this is really a question of strategy rather than a product
<Peter Wild> I think a very important point to make here actually is that... any new product... we'd be crazy to do a new product with an arm7500 or sa110 in it, and IOMD. Which is the two options for those operating systems. That would be complete craziness. The only way forward would be with a 32bit processor which really needs RISC OS 5. Which means from our point of view a much better way of spending our development bucks is putting them into developments for RISC OS 5, i.ee Merlin which will then filter down into other product solutions. Because that gives everyone a share in the future. There's nothing to say that a-n-other AMS can't own his own piece of hardware and come and license RISC OS 5 from us using the latest and greatest whatever processor it happens to be. It may be a lot cheaper than the very top end solution we have in the Iyonix. We'd be very happy to see that happen... I'm very happy to talk about licensing RISC OS 5 to anyone who wants to do that and I think that's a message I can't get over strongly enough.
<Mike Williams> Right, OK, Jim Nagel is there anything you would like to ask at all?
<Jim Nagel> No, I think we've covered everything that I can think of. I would like to know who the shareholders are in RISC OS Ltd? I've been looking on the company's host website and it's not... I don't know if it's not required for that to be disclosed or what but it isn't there.
<Peter Wild> If you look on RISC OS Ltd's website...
<Jim Nagel> I've looked there too.
<Peter Wild> ...they have their annual report from a couple of years ago, it's not a completely up to date list of shareholders but it's more or less up to date, it's quite a long list so... it's a lot of very very small shareholders, about 40 or 50?
<Jack Lillingston> 40 I think
<Peter Wild> So it's not a list we can kind of reel off now
<Jack Lillingston> But it is there in the public domain
<Mike Williams> Chris Williams, is there anything you'd want to bring up?
<Chris Williams> Yes, with all respect to Richard from Iconbar, if you look at Iconbar right now, 48 percent of RISC OS users that visit Iconbar are voting that they support RISC OS Ltd or haven't quite decided yet whereas 52 percent are voting for Castle. Given this crisis would you... are you willing to lose half the market over this entire dispute and also if you could do this dispute all over again how would you do it differently. What differences would you do this time around?
<Peter Wild> <laughs> We've had that discussion, the trouble is that most of the... most of the other options end up in violence...
<Peter Wild> <laughs> No joking aside, because that was a joke, before someone acuses me of threatening anyone with violence, certainly I wouldn't want to be misquoted on. Now, that's a hard question...
<Jack Lillingston> We have actually tried to ensure that we... to get to the point where everything's put right and we have, I think, given every opportunity for RISC OS Ltd to either join the party, or get themselves sorted out, and I cannot see how we could have done anything different. We've been very careful to make sure that we take proper legal advice on how we move forward, and we've given as I say time and time again every opportunity for RISC OS Ltd to ???. We never intended... well it was always going to be the last resort to make things public and it really wasn't us who forced that. We could not let... a whole load of rumour develop into damaging prospects for Castle Technology and we had to make sure that we came out with a statement that covered all of the facts.
<The rest is purely from the Iconbar.com recording, which is somewhat garbled>
<Peter Wild> I've got one comment actually. Yes I do know how I would do this again if circumstances repeated themselves exactly ??? One thing I would say about this, this over the last year has wasted an incredibly large amount of everybody's time, it's wasted an incredibly large amount of money not just on solicitors fees, but ??? and on lost opportunities and all the rest of it. What I would have done with the benefit of hindsight is on the day one that we realised ??? breaching their licence ??? called the solicitors then, terminated them straight away and had the issue out ??? without dragging on and trying to be reasonable people for 12 months.
<Mike Williams> Right, thanks for that comment. I think one of the things that seems fairly apparent to me is that this whole affair is costing Castle an awful lot of money and an awful lot of time and effort, which clearly they wouldn't wish ??? if they could possibly afford it. They are, in my view, a very commercial company, and no commercial company is going to embark on a course of action which involves a lot of effort and a lot of cost ??? really essential, but all of you must make up your own minds on that. I'm going to terminate this conference at this stage. I thank all of you for participating, for asking your questions and not diving out to ??? the football which is on now.
<Unknown> It's England nil, Croatia one.
<Mike Williams> Oh right, everything as expected. Anyway, thanks to Jack and to Pete for making Castle available and as I said before I'm sure they'll be only to happy to discuss any of the issues with each of you individually or answer any other questions that you may have. ??? it's over but Jack, do you want to say anything in conclusion.
<Jack Lillingston> Well, I'd like to thank you all for taking the time ??? ??? ??? I hope the technology has proved to be OK. And enjoy the rest of the football match.
<thanks all around>
<John Cartmell> Thanks to Mike for chairing it
<Mike Williams> Thanks to everybody, and it's goodbye from all of us and goodbye from him!
End of transcript
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