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Acorn scrubs Risc PC 2

Seventy-five staff walk the plank

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Talk about timing. Less than a week after buying Acorn User from IDG media in a management buyout, editor Steve Turnbull’s plans to "reinvigorate the entire Acorn market" lie in tatters. Because Acorn ain’t playing ball. It has scrapped Phoebe, the Risc 2 project, upon which the hopes of the Acorn user and reseller community were pinned. The move is part of a "fundamental restructure" which will enable Acorn to become more focused as a "digital TV and thin clients components company", it said. Originally slated for a November launch, Phoebe exists now solely as the spec that never was. The company has also rung the death-knell for its annual show for the Acorn community. It says the event is postponed; but unless there is any exhibition organiser foolhardy enough to run with the baton, it seems that Acorn users will have to restrict future gatherings to the car boot sales that proliferate across the country. Acorn says it will continue to supply its existing, rapidly ageing Risc PC line -- so there will be plenty of spare parts knocking about. But who would buy a new Risc PC, given that its manufacturer is so keen to get out of the business? Under the restructure, announced today, Acorn is also transferring all systems and logistics business to Xemplar, its 50 per cent owned joint venture with Apple. Staff numbers are reduced from 175 to 100, with more than two-thirds of non-engineering staff going. Engineering staff who survive the cull are to be reorganised into direct revenue-earning design and consultancy work. Stan Boland, newly promoted chief executive, commented: "Today's announcement marks a significant watershed in Acorn's history. Whilst we are sad to be announcing the redundancies, we are making these important changes to Acorn's market position and business shape to recognise that the future of this company lies as a leading player in the digital TV system components, and in partnership with other technology companies. "Acorn's ability to create very fast and powerful silicon and software designs for some of the world's leading companies is increasingly being acknowledged. We are working hard to engage successfully in this market with a number of partners and potential partners." Acorn users and resellers are quick to spring to the defence of the vendor whenever it receives a slight -- imagined or when it comes from The Register . But this time will they have the heart to orchestrate another letter-writing campaign to us, seeing as their beloved vendor has so signally kicked them in the teeth? Our best wishes to the new owners of Acorn User. It is often easier to make money from a market in decline. At least you know that no one else is going to come along with a spoiler launch. ®

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