SarahWalker wrote:I did used to think that the Electron could have been more of a long-term success with a few changes - faster RAM, proper sound chip, etc.
I think it's fair to say that the Electron targeted a narrow market zone that needed to be filled within a very short window of time. Maybe a change in feature priorities might have helped, but we've discussed this over and over already.
SarahWalker wrote:But I'm increasingly coming to the view that the Electron and other BBC spinoffs (eg ABC, Communicator etc) were a misstep overall; rather than try to spread the BBC architecture into every market they could think of, it would have been best for Acorn to focus solely on the 'next big thing', whether that's what became the Archimedes, a 32016 (or more likely 68000) based machine, or something else. Maybe with a Master-like machine circa 1984 to keep sales going in the short term, but not the distracted proliferation of 8-bitters that we actually saw.
It's possible that Acorn really should have tried to optimise the cost of the Beeb through other means, too, potentially only doing so by waiting for supply problems to diminish and for prices to fall. The company could have regarded Sinclair's antics as a distraction and let him compete with a bunch of soon-to-be-defunct companies, Commodore and - soon enough - Amstrad. And they could have held back on trying to enter the US market, too.
Maybe then - perhaps after a couple of years or more - there'd have been an "Electron" as a "full" Beeb of some kind. Sort of like the budget variants of the popular Commodore and Amstrad machines that came out years later. Maybe this answers the original question!
What certainly wasn't clear back in 1982-3 was the way the market would go: that's why there were all those second processors, ABC models, and so on. Nobody was certain that DOS - as opposed to IBM - would be the dominant platform, and nobody was even sure that IBM would be dominant, either. CP/M seemed pretty viable, and at the higher end there was always stuff like Unix. Not even IBM intended for DOS to stick around as long as it has done.
Maybe Acorn could have done a bet-the-company move and tried to offer Xenix on the 32016 as planned, perhaps. That might have driven the company's development more efficiently, but then again, they might then have gone bankrupt and gone the way of so many other companies of the era, with the only difference being that someone would have had to pick up the obligation to make more computers to fulfil the BBC contract.