Foundation RISCWorld breaking news
As we were going to press the following announcement was quietly slipped onto the www.riscos.org website:
IOYONIX Ltd (sic) would like to announce that from the 30th September 2008 it will not be possible to order an IYONIX computer. There are however very limited supplies of IYONIX computers available for supply and where possible we will be delighted to supply computers before this date (orders will be dealt with on a first come first served basis and are limited).
From 1st October 2008 support for the IYONIX computer will continue through:
In the meantime Jack Lillingston & John Ballance would like to thank all their customers for their business and support over the last 15 years. IYONIX Ltd will continue to trade until stocks of IYONIX and other Acorn RISC OS parts and accessories are exhausted.
The opening up of the RISC OS source code through ROOL is unaffected by this announcement.
So are you surprised by this announcement? If you are then you haven't been paying attention. Iyonix Ltd has done the job that Castle Technology Ltd set it up to do. Perhaps it would help if we went through the history of the Iyonix, from cradle, to unfortunately, grave.
The Iyonix History
The Iyonix was developed as a Set Top Box (STB) by Pace engineers under the code name Tungsten. The hardware and the 32bit RISC OS 5 were developed at the same time and done as a "black book" project. This means that the managers at Pace didn't know what the engineers were actually up to. RISC OS 5 itself was simply a 32bit version of RISCOS Ltd's RISC OS 4. This was perfectly proper, as the intended use was for a set top box and the agreement between RISCOS Ltd and Pace (which had been inherited from Acorn/Element 14) specifically allowed Pace to use RISCOS Ltd's sources for their own STB projects.
However things went wrong when the upper levels of Pace management in Shipley, Pace's head office, discovered what the Pace engineers at Cambridge had been doing. The result was that the Cambridge operation was shut down. Shortly after this Castle Technology Ltd "acquired" the RISC OS 5 sources and the proposed hardware designs along with some of the original engineers, the intention being to turn the Tungsten STB into a desktop computer. The original hardware designer, Robert Sprowson, didn't come on board and so Castle recruited Peter Wild (who had designed hardware for Computer Concepts and others) to make the necessary changes. Everything had to be done quickly. From Castle first getting hold of the Tungsten project to the Iyonix being launched was only just over 6 months.
The released Iyonix was a bodge. Yes it worked well and provided a longed for upgrade for RiscPC users and it was well received, and rightly so. However it wasn't designed for a long production life as it used some components that were near obsolete when it was launched (for example the Geforce graphics card). The real problem for the Iyonix came with the adoption of the ROHS regulations on the 1st of July 2006. These contained regulations that banned the use of certain "hazardous" substances in consumer items. One of these substances was lead. The Iyonix was designed to use leaded parts and leaded solder.
At this point Castle Technology Ltd really had two choices. Either to stop selling the machine, or to properly re-engineer it so that it could continue to be manufactured. Unfortunately by this stage Castle Technology Ltd was in a poor state financially. The £250,000 payment to Pace had hit hard and re-engineering simply couldn't be afforded. So it looked as though the Iyonix was dead.
However Castle came up with a cunning way of "avoiding" the problem. A further batch of motherboards (around 50 or so) were manufactured before the 1st of July cut off date. These motherboards were then "sold" to Iyonix Ltd, which had been set up in September of 2005. Iyonix Ltd would then assemble the machines and sell them. This was an artificial construction designed to avoid the regulations. Indeed the ROHS regulations actually had clauses that outlawed what Castle Technology Ltd and its directors were doing, but Castle Technology Ltd had a history of sailing "close to the wind".
So just before the 1st of July deadline all the current stocks were passed to Iyonix Ltd. From this point on the Iyonix was already a dead product. No more could be manufactured and by refusing to re-engineer the product Castle Technology Ltd had given up on the RISC OS market and condemned the Iyonix to an early grave. Once the stocks had been sold that would be the end of the Iyonix and of Iyonix Ltd.
So, as we can see from the Iyonix Ltd press release, this has finally come to pass. The stock of Iyonix machines have finally been sold, though it's taken over two years for Iyonix Ltd to sell the 50 odd machines that it had "inherited" from Castle Technology Ltd.
So what happens now?
Now we move into the realms of speculation. We know that there will be no more Iyonix machines and that Iyonix Ltd will be shutting down at some point. But what of Castle Technology Ltd itself? Well the main holding company, Castle Technology Holdings Ltd, has been dormant for some time. A quick check with Companies House revealed that it's annual return is over four months overdue, which doesn't sound encouraging. Castle Technology Ltd itself hasn't filed its accounts and these are some two months overdue. However what is interesting is its year end, the 30th of September, which incidently is the cut off date mentioned in the Iyonix Ltd press release.
It would seem likely that Castle Technology Ltd itself is about to be closed. Why else would Jack Lillingston and John Balance thank their customers of the last 15 years? As we have seen Iyonix Ltd has only existed for 3 years. Time will tell, indeed it might all become apparent by the time you read this issue as we are writing this article on Monday the 29th of September, one day ahead of the Iyonix deadline.
It will be a shame if Castle Technology Ltd does close down, but it won't be unexpected and nor will it be anyone's fault except for the company's directors themselves. Whilst what's happening to Castle Technology Ltd (and it's sister companies) is a shame, the damage Castle Technology Ltd did to RISC OS and the RISC OS market is a real tragedy.
We will be covering this developing story in the next issue. However if you are a Castle Technology Ltd fan you might not like what you are going to read. Such a tale of lies, deceit and criminal activity is hard to believe, but will explain the failure of the Iyonix all to clearly.