On drobe.co.uk, Chris Williams again investigates the role of RISC OS and RISC OS machines in the real world. At stake is traditional claim of platform fans that running a RISC OS system is cheaper than other systems – something that may have been true during the 90s, but perhaps now has the platfom at a disadvantage. Decide for yourself in Chris’ article.
Should the TCO of RISC OS be higher
Submitted by Peter Naulls 2005-02-17 RISC OS 4 Comments
I think the business model used by many RISC OS related companies is not sustainable. The market has shrunk significantly since the mid-90’s and there is little reason to upgrade many of the applications that run on RISC OS. Where you once might have had several thousand people who would buy a product you are now more likely to have a few hundred. The result is less money in the bank and so work tends to be done for love rather than getting rich.
This has changed more recently with subscription scheme’s to support ongoing development. A few of which appear to be quite successful.
The difference between businesses not charging for upgrades and those who do is simple. Those who do have money to carry on.
As much as I like RISC OS I can’t see it’s current market share being sustained, let alone increased.
In the late 80s and early 90s RISC OS computers were cutting edge technology available for a bargain price. I bought an Archimedes for around 700UKP in 1989, that was less than the price of a mid range PC or 68000 compact Mac. The Archie thrashed both of them for raw CPU speed, had much better graphics and a significantly superior OS. It also had a decent number of software developers who created a highly competitive selection of apps. As they were used in schools and had some mainstream advertising people had actually heard of them.
Despite all that they still weren’t successful outside of the education market. I fail to see how any of the current attempts to rejuvenate the RISC OS market are going to succeed.
As with some Linux distributions, “lack of features is a feature” for schools and libraries; the fact that some (European) institutions prefer RISC because of what it *can’t* do (e.g., games, porn, etc.) isn’t exactly a strong endorsement.
The only argument for RISC these days is “if you’ve already invested years of your life in it, I suppose you might as well continue on for a few more”; but no, it would be *very* difficult to convince anyone to switch to RISC from another platform. “TCO” has to be kept in the context of the functionality you’re getting for that cost! If you buy a new Mac, you’ll be facing obsolescence-related problems in 5 years (or less…), but if you buy RISC you’re embracing obsolescence *now*.
For people who have done so and love it –I’m happy for them. I’m also happy for people who still run DOS 5.0, so long as they’re getting all the functionality they need. However, if you want to create a Unicode compliant .PDF file (which is a “standard requirement” for an OS these days) you certainly can’t do it in RISC OS.
Depending on what you do, there’s no doubt that RISC OS can be perfectly usable as a serious system. I use an Iyonix for much of my work without my colleagues necessarily needing to know. It is also being actively developed, so unlike DOS it does gradually improve in terms of access to new standards, albeit often later than other platforms.
However, there has always been a problem sustaining minority platforms, especially if they are intended for general use rather than something more specific or niche.
So whilst I’m continually happy that development of the platform is maintained (and sincerely hope this continues), and that people do make money out of it, like JK I have difficulty seeing how the desktop market can be expanded.