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RM plc

RM plc is a UK company specialising in providing products and services to schools, colleges, universities and government education departments & agencies. While RM is primarily involved in supplying information communications and technology (ICT) services to UK education, the group also includes companies providing educational software in the US and school management software in the Asia Pacific region.

As of 2007, RM employs approximately 2,100 people, with the majority based in the company's headquarters located on Milton Park, near Didcot, Oxfordshire. RM also has offices across the UK, in North America, Australia and a software development facility in India.

Strategy

RM classifies its business in to four broad areas:

  • systems and infrastructure
  • assessment and data services
  • education management systems
  • education resources and software

The Group's own description of its strategy is set out on page 16 of its Annual Report. This includes a description of its competitive advantage from differentiation focus that draws on the Michael Porter model of generic competitive strategies Annual Report 2006. Retrieved on 2008-01-03..

Other Group Companies

The RM Group comprises:

  • RM Education - the original company, active in supplying ICT software, systems and services to educational customers
  • TTS Group - supplier of special-purpose educational and classroom resources
  • Softease - educational software publisher
  • Forvus - specialist provider of statistical and data analysis services to public sector organisations
  • Sentinel - developer and supplier of networking software and tools
  • 3T - specialist interactive design services for education sector clients
  • RM Asia-Pacific - supplier of school information systems
  • RM Educational Software - educational software for schools in North America
  • RM Educational Solutions India - software design and development

History

RM was founded under the name Sintel in 1973 in Oxford, England by Mike Fischer and Mike O'Regan, respectively graduates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Sintel was initially a mail-order supplier of electronic components, mainly dealing with the hobbyist market. Fischer and O'Regan's ambition was to grow their business into a manufacturer of scientific equipment, with the educational and scientific market chosen because they judged that their business wouldn't be able to grow fast enough to be successful in the general business market.

With the arrival of low-cost programmers in the mid-1970s, the company expanded into the design and manufacturing of microcomputers. The name chosen for this new activity was Research Machines Limited, reflecting the company's aim to sell to educational and scientific markets. The company shipped its first computer in 1977 to a customer in a Local Education Authority and has been involved with educational computing ever since.

The company's entrance into educational computing came at a time when the United Kingdom government was encouraging the use of computers in schools, for instance through the Microelectronics Education Programme. Throughout the 1980s RM and Cambridge-based rival Acorn Computers provided computers to the majority of schools in the UK.

The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 1994 under the name RM plc.

Mike Fischer was Chief Executive of the Group until 1997, when Richard Girling took over. Girling retired in 2002 and was replaced by current CEO, Tim Pearson. Both Girling and Pearson had long careers with RM before being appointed Chief Executive, Pearson having joined the company as a technical support engineer straight from university in 1981. Long careers are a feature of RM - Tim Pearson's PA also served in the same role for both Fischer and Girling.

RM PLC also won the contract for KS3 ICT tests.

Products

Early products such as the RM 280Z, RM 380Z and Link 480Z were based on the Zilog Z80 processor. The Group switched to Intel processors with the launch of the 80186 based Nimbus PC-186 in 1984.

While not 100% IBM PC compatible, the Nimbus PC-186 ran MS-DOS and was a very early example of a computer designed to support Microsoft Windows. Since 1986, with the introduction of the Nimbus AX and VX models, all RM computers have been fully IBM compatible.

RM was one of the first suppliers of computer networks in the UK and, working with Zilog, developed Z-Net, a low-cost network technology that was widely used in UK schools particularly the RM Nimbus model. Z-Net was subsequently replaced by the industry standard, Ethernet. Various generations of RM’s networking products – all of which have been built on standard Microsoft networking software – are currently in use, the most recent version is called Community Connect 4, released in June 2008 following numerous delays.

RM not only provide networking solutions but provide a range of hardware. Most computers and servers are built in their factory, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, whilst other hardware, such as laptops, interactive whiteboards and peripherals are either dispatched as is, or re-branded by RM. Announced October 2007 RM will be selling the Asus Eee PC in the UK re-branded as the RM Asus Minibook.

RM also offer a range of software solutions, such the Kaleidos VLE, MathsAlive, DiscoverAlive, Living Library and SuccessMaker. They also package up popular software titles from other software companies to allow teachers and network administrators to install the titles more easily.

Software Security

RM's turnkey local area network products such as Community Connect are primarily used in schools, an environment that can have some users who are intent on compromising network security and publicising their discoveries. In almost all cases the vulnerabilities found relate to elements within the client operating system, chosen for its low cost and software compatibility. Security has improved greatly in the last decade, due to significant advances in the Microsoft client and server operating systems, such as NTFS access control on client hard disks and increasing sophistication of Group Policy for restricting available actions.

Criticisms

Some System administrators complain that RM network management tools offer reduced functionality at additional cost, when compared with the tools supplied by Microsoft for the server operating system. This fails to recognise that the RM tools are deliberately intended to simplify the administration of networks with large numbers of users ., and that the Microsoft tools can be used in tandem with the RM tools.

Due to the security applied to the system to prevent users running their own software, there has been criticism that some applications, including development environments such as VB.Net are required to be executed in a virtual machine. RM state that this is for security, to allow the user the opportunity to use a Windows XP workstation for their development activities, but without placing the host machine at risk of being compromised

See also

References

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