RISC World

Interview with Roy Heslop

An interview with Roy Heslop (MD of RISCStation Ltd) and Paul F Johnson conducted via email.

PFJ: Roy, how long have you been involved with the RISC OS market as either the boss at RiscStation or in any other guise?

From about 1988, as a retailer from 1992.

PFJ: In that time, what would you consider to be the most significant change to the RISC OS market?

Clearly the end of production of machines from Acorn.

PFJ: Why was the RiscStation's shipped with the ARM7500FE and not the StrongARMs? Surely with the Simtec design and the extras built in (such as the power management, network connection, sound sub system, ability to wake on LAN and other fun things), a StrongARM RiscStation would have left the old RiscPCs dead in the water?

The Riscstation's were built specifically to run RISC OS 4 and with their modern design motherboard actually perform many tasks faster than the old RPC design. The plan as many people know was to port RISC OS onto our SA prototype, which has been gathering dust for the last 2 & half years. Unfortunately, mainly as the unforeseen "Anti-British IT" stance from the current Government, we have been unable to attract the investment required to finish the project. It does make me wonder if anybody has actually calculated how many lives could have been saved by the NHS had the money Tony Blair has wasted on his mate Bill Gate's Company's products been spent more prudently than on "broken machines & software".

(Tony Blair can currently be found at the next opening of Bill Gates Fridge! (Providing the light comes on and the Press are there))

PFJ: How is ARM Linux coming along for the RiscStation range and can we expect to see a RiscStation CD release of it in the near future?

This is almost ready for release, and the answer is yes.

PFJ:When is the expected delivery date of the laptop?

There have been some minor setbacks, but everything is now flowing smoothly. We will be making a full announcement very soon, hopefully by the end of this coming week. Current expectation is as soon as possible.

PFJ: Will there be a working model at Wakefield?

Yes. (And indeed there was - ED)

PFJ: What has been the cause of this delay?

No major causes, other than the problems than can and do occur in a development cycle.

PFJ: How do you respond to the fair comment that RiscStation should have contacted all of those waiting for machines as soon as it became apparent that there would be a delay?

Yes, but an announcement that we would be making an announcement seemed somewhat futile.

PFJ: Why has nothing official come from RiscStation about this, instead of an authorised "leak"?

A bad move the way it was perceived, but since we did not fully know about the delay or how long the implications would be it would not make sense to make any full announcement until we know.

PFJ: What is the score on obtaining Select for RiscStation machines? Is it likely to appear in the near future?

This is all under development. So yes.

PFJ: How damaging has the announcements of the likes of the Evolution and Omega been on the sales of current desktop machines?

Almost Total, this appear to also include upgrades and the use of consumables, all of which support development. At present we are relying on PC users who buy consumables to support the RISC OS computer development.

PFJ: Where is RiscStation at with regards to the Evolution? It has been on your website for ages now without an update.

It still requires about 2 months work funding.

PFJ: How can users help the RISC OS market out of its current mire? Is it as simple as dumping their old Acorn machines and investing in one of the new RISC OS 4 machines or are there other ways if (for some reason) they can help out?

The former is obviously of great help. Without current sales how can there be new machines. Other issues also include a general lack of support, it would appear that a great number (of course not all users) would prefer to spend over the odds at places like Dixons, PC World, Viking etc rather than saving money by buying their goods from the likes of CTA Direct. It baffles me.

PFJ: As with all companies, you will have had a "masterplan" (or road map) for how RiscStation planned the future out. What was it?

Very simple sell approx. 1000 to 1200 R7500 machines in the first year (not very many really). On the back of proven sales obtain additional backing to finish the Evolution (Non RISC OS prototype already existed before we even shipped any R7500's), to launch the following year. Alongside this development would be the Portable (as was) for release at about the same time.

PFJ: Can you explain why the RiscStation website has not been updated in ages?

Actually, although the website wasn't update for a period earlier this year, it is now been updated on a regular basis.

PFJ: and why emails to RiscStation go unanswered (other than to the address) - surely it would be in the companies' interest to have both of these functioning properly?

I am not aware of any unanswered e-mails as these are answered on a bi-daily basis. The only exceptions are when large numbers of people are all asking the same questions, it's a matter of resources. Hence the mailing list.

PFJ: What software and hardware projects have you got on the back burner at present, which will probably, only appear when finances allow?

Current count is about 14; this includes numerous software projects targeting "required for market" items.

PFJ: Realistically, how long would these take to bring to market?

Again a question of man-hours, but some as little as a few weeks :-)

Conducted by Paul Johnson