The great debate
Aarons take on recent events...
I have been having real trouble working out how to introduce this issue of RISCWorld. Usually we start off with the latest news, but do I really want to print a load of press releases from RISC OS companies saying that they can't ship anything due to a "third party dispute"? No. Do I want to print a transcript of the Castle press conference without commenting on it as it contains so many factual errors? No. So what can I do? I can't really ignore the recent problems that have plunged the RISC OS world in chaos for the last two months, on the other hand I don't want to jeopardies a possible future solution for all concerned.
So what can I say? Well I did decide that instead of expressing an opinion I would simply state the facts, so I wrote a couple of paragraphs listing the facts in chronological order. Then I went for a coffee, then I came back and re-read what I had just written, then I put it aside it. Why? Well if I just put down the facts I know and have supporting paperwork for, as opposed to rumour, speculation etc, then I have a nice timeline, a timeline that shows when RISCOS Ltd. AMSs were approved by Pace; shows when royalties were paid; in fact it built up a convincing picture. The problem I had with it was the picture it built up wasn't helpful in the current situation. Either it clearly showed that one party was right and that one party was very clearly in the wrong, or it showed that one party had access to paperwork the other didn't. With recent events I am strongly inclined to believe the latter. One side simply acted on the information it had, without knowing the information wasn't complete (or possibly even correct).
So why doesn't that help? Well we need to build a compromise solution that allows everyone to move forward. You can't put everything back in the box and carry on as though nothing has happened. It's quite plain from all the meeting's that I have been to (and a quick aside the amount of time/money that has been spent on all sides) that everyone has their minimum position, the absolute minimum they are prepared to accept from a solution. So can a solution be found that satisfies all parties?
"Can a solution can be found", but surely it's all sorted out? From the e-mails and phone calls I have had you would think so. Alas no. What we have is a cessation of hostilities along with a schedule that can be used to reach a solution, provided all those involved can pull together towards a common goal. The schedule also requires there to be a degree of trust between all the parties. That trust will have to be earned. It's easy to promise something, but as I have seen over the last few months there is a great deal of distrust, often I have to say with regret, with very good reason.
So what's going to happen next? Well we have a breathing space that lets companies ship RISC OS kit again. While everyone is shipping a deal can hopefully be worked out that everyone is happy with. I am cautiously confident that we can all solve this and carry on with the real job. However nagging at the back of my mind is a nasty feeling that this is all going to kick off again. Let's hope not. I want all the companies to move forward. This is a small market, we can't afford to lose anyone; we need Castle and the IYONIX PC, we need MicroDigital and the Omega, we need Advantage Six and the A75 and we need RISCOS Ltd. to continue developing RISC OS. Being biased I also think we need VirtualAcorn to fill in the gaps. We also need the software developers, APDL, R-Comp etc, in fact we need everyone we have. Losing anyone now could spell absolute disaster for the platform. If the problem doesn't get solved amicably for all parties then it's quite possible that we will lose at least some RISC OS developers. I don't want that and I am sure you don't either.