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The Icon Bar: News and features: MicroDigital at Expo

MicroDigital at Expo

Posted by F. Antonides on 01:00, 23/6/2003 | , , ,

Microdigital at Expo

An account of Microdigital's presentation at RISC OS Expo 2003. The speaker was David Atkins.

David AtkinsDA began his presentation with the remark that he was extremely proud of the system MD had accomplished. Four years after Acorn had pulled the plug on the market, development is still continuing and looks promising with better hardware than ever before.
Except for the SCSI, a network card and the PC-card (not sure about the last one) the machine was basically finished. The licencing issues were solved, although there were a few issues they couldn't get around (no details given). They were shipping from the Wakefield show onwards and they would prove that the machines were actually handed out to people. Then some noise started when Frank Kraajj of Desk/Microdigital Europe began dropping a whole bunch of computer boxes behind the speaker's table, and DA tried to continue his presentation at the same time.

The Alpha

The talk went further, discussing the motive behind launching a notebook with RISC OS starting in a Windows XP environment, and running on an Intel Pentium processor. He understood the difficulties that ARM purists would have, as the OS did run on another kind of processor, but after carrying out market research they came to the conclusion that this was the best way to go forward. As the userbase was small they should try to enlarge the group of users and this would benefit the whole of the RISC OS market - and not only for hardware developers, but surely also for software developers because their applications could be run on these machines too. So the developers could earn more, and in return invest further in their software.
Actually he stated that most of notebooks had been sold to customers that had formerly used RISC OS but had been forced to switch to the Windows environment as the companies they worked for used the Windows system as standard. Also it was easier to get support for developing RISC OS as the use of Windows would pave the way in getting investment. But also it could support the philosophy 'best of both worlds' because someone could easily work with RISC OS when and wherever, and still use Windows if necessary. DA explained how he found it very comfortable to work with his notebook at home and wherever he was to finish work in between and when travelling.



There had been rumours that MD were not delivering the products, so they would prove that they actually were - in front of the audience's own eyes, so that everybody would be undoubtedly convinced. And then they started literally handing out Omegas and Alphas to the customers who had paid in full before the show, by calling out the owners by name one at a time and handing over portable Alphas and Omegas to them in front of the whole audience.

MD and the press

DA stated that the press repeatedly presented information in their articles as proven facts, but in fact most of it turned out to be misinterpreted knowledge or wrong information about the system and MD. He brought into mind that on one occasion the press was told in detail about the Omega system and also asked very relevant questions. But when reading back the articles in the press there seemed no intention to take a positive approach and instead the authors put statements into their articles which gave a wrong idea of what had previously been fully explained in detail and actually shown to the reporters. They also stated that the machine couldn't work, or MD could not deliver, despite having actually seen a machine working and access to the knowledge of the approach MD, as a dedicated company to RISC OS, had chosen. And why the press gave no objective opinions remained a mystery. The position of MD was probably not taken too seriously. But why should MD put so much effort, investment and time in developing a RISC OS machine if there were no obvious reasons for doing so. It would be plain silly if they invested money in this technology and didn't have a good programme to support the system in the faith it was going to be worthwhile. MD had taken this route because they had a range of products to go along with it. So no one had to doubt if machines should work or question if MD could deliver the machines. It shouldn't even be a consideration to think that MD wouldn't deliver the Omega in the first place because they intended to built a future with it. And they were in fact determined to go on on.
DA explained that the computer had now come to a state where its complexity was beyond the competence of journalists. There were some very new techniques being applied, which only those inside Microdigital were aware of and were not understood by others. This could explain why press reviews weren't reliable.
There was for instance a statement in the press that all the circuitry on the motherboard did not have equal trace lengths which was crucial for the machine to function well. DA was then interrupted by someone in the audience who said he was a technician himself and that this was indeed a fact and that anyone who argued against this was clearly wrong. DA agreed that equal lengths were indeed crucial and no one had to doubt that as a fact. But at MD they used highly complex and professional CAD systems where the length of the circuitry could be set to an equal length at the press of a button, and all the circuitry was automatically set to an equal length. So the press statement could be ruled out straight away and should never have been published. The information that MD didn't make all the circuitry of the same length was nevertheless written down in the press as a fact and damaged the product. He wouldn't argue if people had a misconception of a product to state it publicly, but when someone claims authority and tries to present their views publicly as fact, then this is bad because people would trust a view which is basically wrong and could seriously harm a product for no reason at all.
He also came forward with another example. When an individual phoned MD to ask for information he answered the questions in good faith. At the end of the conversation the information was summarised. This caller was asked [by another source] if they had spoken to DA and if shipping dates were mentioned - and later on this conversation turned up in the press where MD was presented as the source of the information. The dates were reported as the official shipping dates for the Omega, when in fact they were - and should only have been treated as - an estimated guess (only to inform an individual, and not meant to give an exact statement of a date of shipping).

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The Icon Bar: News and features: MicroDigital at Expo