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Hands up everyone who remembers Amstrad?
Yes, back in the early 1980s, while many folk were "oohing" and "ahhing" over the newly released 16-bit IBM-PC, Allan Sugar, a British entrepreneur was doing the impossible...
Sugar was making a fortune by selling an 8-bit computer that ran CP/M and used wonky proprietary floppy disks.
How could he do this? Who'd want to stay stuck in the 1970s with an old-fashioned CPU and odd-ball disk drives, while running "last decade's" operating system?
Well Sugar knew a thing or two about making stuff that people "needed" back then.
He knew that everyone *wanted* the latest 16-bit microcomputers that ran PC/MSDOS -- but he also knew that people "needed" a machine that was simple and affordable. What you "want" is an optional purchase, what you "need" is not.
So Sugar released the Amstrad CPC128 and CPW8256 hideously slow and oddball computers.
Not the greatest machines on the planet, woefully less impressive than an IBM PC but so much more affordable.
The CPC128 was designed for the home user and came with a choice of OSes including the company's own AMSDOS CP/M 2.2 or CP/M 3.0. These machines sold in good numbers, mainly because of their very low pricing.
The PCW8256 however, was a real winner for Sugar.
It was pitched as a typewriter replacement and came complete with Amstrad's own LocoScript word-processing software or WordStar, MailMerge, CalcStar and DataStar - the iconic CP/M office software suite which was well past its best-by date.
Even though the machine was "old-spec" and the software was clunky by IBM-PC standards, these things sold like hotcakes because they *were* a very practical alternative to a typewriter. Even the physical design was clever -- having the floppy drive integrated into the screen making for a minimum of cables and a compact desktop unit that was cheap to make.
This was Amstrad's greatest hour!
Later on they did also bring out a CP/M-86 machine based on the Intel 8088 with the GEM windowing environment but it never came close to enjoying the success of his 8-bit computers.
So why am I talking about Amstrad today?
Well it seems that Allan Sugar (now "Lord Sugar") is "having a go" at delivering an all-in-one internet-TV, PVR and Freeview decoder to the Brits.
Unfortunately, it looks as if it's going to be an epic fail.
The YouView system sounds good on paper -- but it's a hefty 300 quid and doesn't really do anything that other set-top boxes and services don't already offer for about the same money.
Has Sugar managed to create a product that squeezes all the different functions delivered by other vendors into a single, simple appliance?
Will this do for IP-TV what those 8-bit Amstrads did for computer-users back in the early 1980s?
Will we see the YouView box here in NZ and will it be popular -- perhaps as popular as those early Amstrad computers were?
Or has Sugar totally misjudged the market here in the 21st century and failed to realise that people now often place "want" ahead of "need"?
You tell me -- and perhaps you've got some Amstrad memories/experiences to share.
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