RISC World


Aaron was invited...

The RISCOS Ltd AGM was once again held in Cambridge on the 12th of September at the Quy Mill Hotel. I was invited both as a shareholder and as a RISCOS Ltd AMS (Authorised Manufacturing Sublicence), since VirtualAcorn and RISCOS Ltd signed a deal a couple of weeks before the AGM that allows VirtualRPC-SE to be sold as a stand alone product.

Cambridge is only a couple of hours away from Bracknell and the route is almost all motorway, apart from the M11 that is. Now I know that the M11 is supposed to be a motorway but I can't help feeling that it was designed by someone who had heard about motorways but never actually experienced one. The bottom part of the M11 is a nice sensible three lane motorway, then suddenly it goes down to two lanes, and your speed drops to a heady 56 mph, why? Well because the M11 is a drag strip for HGVs, two metal behemoths battle it out nose to nose, will the french lorry loaded with empty palettes be able to beat the plucky British contender? Or will the British lorry carrying 12 tons of pork scratchings pull out without looking and cause an accident? Guess which. The motorway (and the lorries) wind their way through some of England's best countryside, I was rather hoping that a Police Wolsley (complete with bell) might have pulled the lorries over and given the drivers a damn good ticking off, but no such luck. Anyway I eventually arrived at the AGM and set up a couple of machines for demonstration purposes and then sprinted to the bar for a small soda water. Just as I was heading to the bar MicroDigital arrived with an Omega and an Alpha. I was later told that there should have been an Iyonix present but that Chris Evans couldn't make the meeting.

The AGM opened at 2 0'clock, and was not especially well attended. Indeed half the chairs were empty which I think is a bit off. If shareholders know that they are not coming then they should inform the company, the only upside of the low attendance was that there was no danger of running out of coffee. The first half of the meeting was a bit of an eye opener, normally any discussion about the RISCOS Ltd accounts turns into an argument, however this year, perhaps due to the non-attendance of some shareholders, it didn't. Paul Middleton took us through the sales figures up to the 30th of August, the most important ones were:

  • Foundation membership was running at 673 subscribers.
  • There were 655 current Select subscribers.
  • Almost 800 Manuals CDs had now been sold.
  • RISC OS 4 ROMS are still selling at the rate of 18 a month.
  • There have been 200 AMS sales so far this year.

Paul Middleton then took us through some of the new product proposals that RISCOS Ltd are considering, these included:

  • A ROM based version of Select (estimated at just over £100 for Select subscribers)
  • A New RISC OS 4 bundle complete with CD-ROM drive.
  • A Select "Easy-Start" printed guide book (along the lines of some of the PC guidebooks)
  • A RISC OS PRM CD (currently versions of the RISC OS 4 PRM are only available to Select subscribers)
  • A RISC OS updates CD containing the contents of the RISCOS Ltd ftp site.

He then explained some of the other projects RISCOS Ltd are working on, including:

  • Replacing ADFS with a faster more efficient filing system.
  • Supporting better graphics cards (no doubt prompted by the new Radeon versions of the ViewFinder).
  • Producing disc partitioning software.
  • Making some changes to BASIC to match the improvements offered by the Iyonix.
  • Producing special versions of Select for VirtualAcorn.
  • Continuing development on embedded RISC OS.
  • More new versions of the Toolbox modules for all versions of RISC OS.

Paul also explained that the market for RISC OS 4 upgrades was drying up and he expected that only a few hundred more RISC OS 4 upgrades were likely to be sold (note that's upgrades, not new machine sales). The situation with regard to Copyright was cleared up a little. The RISC OS name belongs to Castle, as does RISCOS Ltd's head licence. Select belongs to RISC OS Ltd, and some other bits belong to others, for example Replay belongs to Broadcom.

Paul also stated that there would be a further share issue early in the new year to support other projects that RISCOS Ltd were considering, such as a 32bit version of Select. At the last share issue shares were sold for £1.25 and it was hoped that 50,000 new shares would be available in the next issue. Another good bit of news concerned RISCOS Ltds financial situation. Although turnover was down, so were expenses, indeed as RISCOS Ltd has now gone beyond the four year period specified in the head licence the fixed cost of paying for the head licence has now been removed, so the company should return a profit in the current financial year.

We then broke for a short interlude while everyone had a play with the machines and a quick coffee/tea/orange juice.

We then got on to the second part of the meeting, the Castle lead consortium that "purchased" RISC OS from Pace. Some in the meeting felt that Pace may have been wrong to sell RISC OS in such a way that allowed Castle to sell into RISC OS Ltd's target market. There may be some strength to this argument but after a long discussion the meeting felt that RISCOS Ltd should try to reach some sort of agreement with Castle over future developments.

Some further details of the Castle/Pace deal did become available.

  • Will Select and RISC OS 5 merge? No.
  • There was be no changes for AMS's (MicroDigital, RISCStation and VirtualAcorn).
  • Castle cannot licence RISC OS 5 for use with existing products.
  • RISC OS Ltd will not licence RISC OS 4 to competing products.

I would have thought that someone from Castle might have turned up to the meeting to answer questions, but no one did.

So in all the AGM went very well, RISC OS Ltd are on track to make a profit this year, they have signed two new AMS agreements, one to MicroDigital and one to VirtualAcorn and everyone seemed very happy with the proposals put forward by Paul Middleton. Indeed the meeting actually ended with a round of applause for Paul. I enjoyed the meeting greatly and look forward to more of the co-operation we have been seeing over the last few months.