posted by Michael Reed on Thu 7th Dec 2006 12:07 UTC

"Part III: PDA Port of RISC OS"


I feel that one barrier to greater adoption of RISCOS stems from its orienting within the market as a 'windows-beater'. I have already outlined its failings in this context.

RISCOS would have a lot going for it in a PDA implementation. The OS could be ported to run as the replacement OS for an existing ARM-based PDA. A 64MB 400MHz environment would be luxurious by RISCOS standards particular as it would only be driving a small screen. RISC OS wins here again as it was developed to run in a variety of screen modes and to be viable on relatively low-res screens.

RISC OS could offer a lot as a PDA OS but a PDA port could, in return, offer a lot to RISCOS. Suddenly, an entire class of PDA orientated application becomes viable: mileage calculators, mapping applications, PIM applications, etc. These are a type of application that are useful without a monster processor to back them up. It goes without saying, that any development of this sort feeds back into and benefits the desktop version of RISCOS.

In addition to this, there is suddenly an added justification to using RISCOS versions of various applications. If a browser doesn't support the latest, all singing, all dancing version of the flash player, this doesn't really matter in the case of a PDA browser. Speed, integration and consistency are more important in portable computing.

PDA RISC OS opens up further, economic justifications from the perspective of the user. Consider the case of a small shareware utility or a driver that requires a cash registration or implies that a donation is expected: does the user pay up, in order to run the program on his desktop RISCOS workstation or does he instead download the equivalent freeware utility for the PC sitting next to it? However, a small payment to add extra functionality to his PDA doesn't invoke the same dilemma as a piece of Linux freeware might not be as readily viable on a PDA.

Even more exciting, some PDAs can support an add-on VGA output card, this means that such a PDA could be, with the addition of a USB keyboard and mouse, a complete base unit. This further re-enforces the idea of RISCOS being a desktop and a PDA OS. With such a set-up, the user cannot only carry some of his synchronised data around with him, such a user would also be able to take this to the next level be able to carry around some of his favourite apps with him :-)

Given freer access, RISCOS could be the OS of the user's PDA, desktop workstation and even supportable as a host OS via emulation when the user is using his PC. There is already a freeware, portable RISC PC emulator. When the user wants to run his RISC OS apps on the PC, he simply establishes a connection between the PC and the PDA and the PC is able to access contents of the PDA as a disk drive. The user then runs the emulator software, and voila, he can then access both his applications and his data. Seamless. This last point might seem fanciful but actually, as the emulator is freeware and ports exist for Windows and Linux, it can already be achieved.

The possibility of a complete port of the base OS to other hardware platforms opens up other intriguing possibilities such as set top box form factor machines.

And there you have it, some of the thoughts of an ex-RISCOS user.

About the author:
Mike is a guy who is geekier than an 80's guy holding one of those synthesisers which you wear like a guitar. Come and read about his lack of ever finishing any of his projects on his website -

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Table of contents
  1. "Introduction"
  2. "Part I: RISC OS Features"
  3. "Part I: RISC OS Features, Continued"
  4. "Part I: The OS Split; Hardware"
  5. "Part I: Hardware, Continued; Emulation"
  6. "Part II: Barriers to Adoption"
  7. "Part III: What Would It Take to Drag Me Back?"
  8. "Part III: PDA Port of RISC OS"
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