From the Cutting Edge
Well we've survived 10 years since Acorn pulled out of the desktop market.
The world has changed significantly in that time. In 1998 we were not long out of the last recession, and here we are in 2009 heading into another one.
What's the difference? Well for starters, computer prices are far lower than they were 10 years ago. Petrol and Diesel prices are nearly twice what they were then, and your house is probably worth at least double what it was then.
So what about RISC OS?
We took the decision just before Christmas to effectively start giving away RISC OS 4.02 via the "Virtually Free" CD and download. We have a new website at http://sales.riscos.com/ where you can currently purchase online downloadable versions of RISC OS 4.02 for use with emulators, or RISC OS 4.39 for use as a softload on top of RISC OS 3.6, 3.7 or 4.02 on a real real Risc PC.
We will be expanding the number of items that can be bought and paid for online over the next few months.
The costs for these downloads are as low as we can sensibly make them, in order to encourage new users and developers to try out RISC OS. Having "hooked" them in we hope they will then be encouraged to buy some of the commercial offerings that RISC OS has to offer. I couldn't survive, without ChangeFSI, Paint, Draw, Impression, Artworks and RiScript and if RISC OS is to continue we need people who are prepared to pay for products. If they expect to treat RISC OS as a dead Operating System, where everything is free, then there will be no incentive for people to develop fully supported commercial applications.
There are a number of people who are very vocal on the discussion groups about how a free version of RISC OS and a free emulator will bring massive numbers of new users to the market. Indeed it may do, the question is this. Having got their emulator for free and their copy of RISC OS virtually free, will they then want to spend money on software to run on the emulator? I don't know. If not then those developing RISC OS software will be out of a job. However a nearly free version of RISC OS is what the market seems to want. The feedback we have received so far has been very positive. Time will tell.
RISCOS Ltd will only be making binaries available for download. Source code access is available to registered developers via our SVN server, as it has been for years. If you think you might be interested in assisting with the development of RISC OS Six let me know.
Moving on, there was some discussion over the Christmas period about who really owns RISC OS, and there was even an online poll, for people to vote from a list of "candidates". What was amazing was that the apparent number of votes far exceeded the number of active users in any other forum. One might even think that maybe some people had voted more than once!
RISCOS Ltd is still the exclusive developer, licensor and owner of all versions of RISC OS 4 and above. As we have shown over the past ten years we have put a huge amount of development into RISC OS.
Other online polls have reported that the biggest demand from users is to port RISC OS onto new hardware platforms. The fact is however that the amount of what needed to achieve this is just too much to justify the investment. With the speed of Intel processors, the fact is that using Windows, Mac OS or Linux as the "Hardware Abstraction Layer" now gives a performance that far exceeds the capabilities of a real Risc PC. RISC OS was written around the capabilities of the ARM processor, and to remove that reliance is just a huge amount of work.
In many areas of RISC OS, it is the hardware that limits the features that can be offered. The Risc PC native hard disc interface, for example, is limited in the type of hard drives it can support, meaning that hard drives greater than 40GB can only be reliably used (if at all) if you have a third party interface fitted. With a native PC or Mac hardware host then the supported hard drives are far bigger. RISC OS still has a 2GB file limit, but there are very few programs that can handle that size file, so it is not really an issue.
So I wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2009, and I trust that we at RISCOS Ltd will continue to be the prime supplier of RISC OS.