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Thank Acorn for embedded tech growth says Oregan exec

By Chris Williams. Published: 24th Mar 2006, 14:41:30 | Permalink | Printable

CJE offers O3 upgrades to O2 punters

In an interview this week with Digitimes, an Oregan executive said the UK was the "cradle of digital TV and all things embedded", largely thanks to Acorn and its spin-off ARM. Some developers of RISC OS products have also held the same view, that even though Acorn imploded, the companies that grew up around it managed to go onto greater things.

Milya TimergaleyevaMarketing VP Milya Timergaleyeva said: "Looking back at the history of computing, the first embedded systems and processors were created in Cambridge, through a plethora of Acorn Computers initiatives in the eighties and nineties.

"The first Video on Demand project was launched in 1994 by Acorn Online Media, with subsequent sale of the Acorn set top box (STB) and RISC OS IP to Pace Micro. Parts of surviving technologies live on today in ARM Holdings (accounting for 75% of all 32-bit embedded CPUs) and Broadcom DSPs."

Oregan was responsible for the RISC OS Oregano web browser, and also the browser used by Sony for the Playstation 2. Although Oregano 3 is much awaited by the desktop user base, there is no official timescale for a release. But it's believed a select few beta testers, including David Ruck and Paul Vigay, are test driving a build of O3 suitable for RISC OS while being subject to strict NDAs. Dealer CJE Micros has promised an upgrade to Oregano 3 for people who buy a copy of version 2 now.

When asked if her company's software could run on platforms such as Windows, Linux and RISC OS, Milya said: "Oregan's software is entirely OS agnostic and therefore there is not a particular focus on any one OS."

She also refused to be drawn on discussing Oregan's plans for the Sony Playstation 3.


Interview part one and two Oregan

Previous: Geminus gains accelerated JPEG support
Next: StrongARM card turns ten years old


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Its a pity that Acorn never marketed their inovations properly, then maybe people would be saying what is windows.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 24/3/06 7:40PM
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Yeah, I agree with that.

It is a pity Acorn never marketed their innovations properly.

I guess they just couldn't lie, steal, cheat and sell rubbish to become a market leader?

The problem these days is that I run the risk of ending up in the nut house for trying to explain to someone the Acorn innovation.

We Acorn nutters are not crazy really, just sane normal enthusiasts with a secret no one wants to know?

Steve. :-)

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 26/3/06 9:36AM
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They might have "marketed like schoolteachers" as Castle put it, but you can't deny the fact that Acorn were true innovators. I can't help thinking that what the RISC OS market needs now is that same attitude. I don't necessarily mean expensive development, but simply moving into new directions and opening new markets. The A9 home, I think, is a very good example.

One of the biggest holes in RISC OS at present, for the desktop market anyway, is its multimedia convergence (ie audio/video format support). Rather ironic, really.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 26/3/06 10:32AM
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I don't see Castle doing much better!!

Acorn were poor at advertising outside of the education market, I think we all agree on that. However, they were exceptionally innovative and their products were of the highest quality. Look how people stick with RISC OS machines (even actual Acorn machines) even now.

And we all know they didn't go bust, but were split up for greedy people to get their ARM shares.

What they did do, before they left the scene, was provide Acorn Browse and Java VM and Replay. Castle provided Oregano, which was a Godsend at the time, but subsequently abandoned it, broke a raft of promises concerning it, and failed to provide Java and any decent replacement to Replay.

This illustrates that although Acorn were not particularly hot at marketing outside of education, they did tend to try to keep their customers up-to-date with various importance technology such as Web browsing and Java. I wish someone would follow their example.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 26/3/06 2:06PM
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Perhaps if you consider marketing as more than just advertising, bringing in wider business strategies, then it may be absolutely true that bad marketing brought about Acorn's eventual demise. By milking the education market for as long as possible without seriously going for those markets which themselves influence educational equipment purchasing, Acorn ended up having very little either technically or socially to persuade people to switch from Wintel and Mac. And had they not fired all their UNIX people as a sacrifice to an increasingly dated microcomputer operating system, perhaps they'd still be around today.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 26/3/06 4:37PM
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"And we all know they didn't go bust, but were split up for greedy people to get their ARM shares."

Well as I remember Acorn used to limp along from Loss to small profit back to loss as various hardware was released. I think it was accepted that they were not really going anyware and vunerable to Schools switching to Windows so pupils were prepared for the outside world.

The original ARM split was so that ARM could blossum as an embedded devices. The result was people thought it was better to cash in the ARM shares and sell up. Would not have happened if Acorn was really profitable.

I think the people concerned would see it as prudence rather than greed per say.

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 26/3/06 5:31PM
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I see a parallel with the actions of record companies. Example: R.E.M. took ten years to start making big bucks, but their record company invested in them long-term. Now they sell millions of records each time they release something, generating profit. Same with Elton John. Nowadays, record companies are more likely to drop anyone like them like a hot brick - no-one wants to invest long-term.

Take Acorn's set-top box and related initiatives. I rather think they'd be making a mint at the moment had anyone had the foresight to invest long-term.

RISC OS could also have been put forward as a contender for the OS of Palm-type devices where not everything is expected to run Windows.

Acorn's losses resulted from Government IT budgets for schools, as you say. And perhaps from being too diverse. An innovative company like Acorn would also have high R&D and staff costs. For many things, like ARM chips and their TV media stuff, they were too far ahead of their time (as hinted at above).

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 26/3/06 6:16PM
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Acorn were vulnerable in the same way any company with a major reliance on one market is vulnerable. Could they have diversified? The business arena was already owned by the IBM-PC; Macs were predominant in US education and the graphical industries; Acorn themselves tried set top boxes with limited success. Truth is, they simply weren't big enough to budget for and do the necessary development. The real testament to their technology is ARM, which goes from strength to strength. It's tempting to imagine that things could have been different, but probably wrong.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 26/3/06 6:19PM
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Apple were vulnerable in the same way any company with a major reliance on one market is vulnerable. Could they have diversified? The business arena was already owned by the IBM-PC.

Now look at them =) -- Sprite

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 27/3/06 4:10PM
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Spriteman: "Apple were vulnerable in the same way any company with a major reliance on one market is vulnerable."

Apple is a business strategy textbook in itself, but they were dominant in US education and had large slices of the desktop publishing and design markets. Acorn, meanwhile, were merely pushing machines on an increasingly sceptical primary and secondary education sector (whilst other parties tried their best for a while to cultivate niches in desktop publishing). Had Acorn made a proper attempt at getting into workstations and higher education (amongst other areas), things could have been different, but a lot of their credibility was gone by the time the Risc PC came out.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 27/3/06 4:47PM
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'Apple were vulnerable..' This comparison overlooks the fact that Apple, at the time (mid-90s) we're discussing, had over 5% of the world desktop market, and a turnover which dwarfed Acorn's. In short, they had options which were totally out of the latter's league. In hindsight (always 20:20, of course), Acorn's big failing was in wanting to devise /all/ the system technology and not adopting industry standards like PCI, libraries and graphics cards, and probably too the PowerPC chip, once it became clear that the StrongARM road wasn't going anywhere. In short, an Iyonix, but five years earlier. Though even at the time I had the impression that the desktop market was no longer of prime interest to Acorn. Sic transit gloria mundi.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 27/3/06 7:26PM
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I recall being at a scientific conference in 1988, and Acorn did a lecture/demo of the Archimedes. This was the time PCs were appearing on desktops in the University world. What was wrong with it? No hardware floating point, and an 800K floppy drive. Another tale, Acorn had a DTP division. I once heard someone say that they sold 10 systems and spent a million pounds doing so.

 is a RISC OS UserDavidPilling on 28/3/06 10:30PM
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Acorn DTP: and at the time apps like Impression Publisher and Artworks were streets ahead of the competition in ease of use and power - an advantage still not entirely eclipsed today IMO. But they weren't 'industry standard', i.e. weren't QuarkXpress or Photoshop, and that's all anyone in the publishing industry knew about, or wanted to know about: would it run Quark? Still on the graphics theme, ISTR A B Dick, a US-based press manufacturer, sold a short-run printing system built around RISC OS for a time in the early 90s. I don't know how successful it was.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 29/3/06 12:12PM
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I see that the name of the US press manufacturer has been, bizarrely, censored. For anyone wishing to know the name (it is, or was, a genuine company), think of a popular diminutive of 'Richard'....

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 29/3/06 12:14PM
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I suspect the Drobe software has a list of swear words to censor, and the shortened form of Richard is one of them - which just illustrates the flaws in such systems, given the word has other, legitimate uses.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 30/3/06 8:53AM
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Drobe software is flawed in many ways. It has put me down as a bad moderator and I still don't know why!! I have modded up some things that others modded down for political and not topical reasons, so perhaps I am being punished for trying to enforce the principle of not using the modding system for political reasons.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 30/3/06 11:33AM
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