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03.Apr.2001
Martin baute via eMail


Personal Estimation From Martin Baute
This article in German

My final article - Author: Martin Baute

April Fools?

One thing before I start, since Sunday morning (2001-04-01), I did only flighty check the situation around Amiga. Perhaps the interview given on this day by Bill McEwen at around 8 AM MEST was a single huge April Fool's joke, and I simply didn't get it. This way or the other, I am angry, upset, and most of all severely disappointed. Very quick something about me as a person. I wasn't an Amiga user since day 0, my "career" as Amigian started 1993 with a second hand A2000. But I was there when Commodore went bust. I have seen the Walker on the CeBit exhibition, and was stunned speechless by the senselessness of the design. I have been through the VIScorp misery, and as news-master of the Amiga News & Stories wrote my articles about it. I have been through the Gateway takeover, rise and fall of Jim Collas, and as "English master" of amiga-news.de wrote my articles about it. I have been through the Amino takeover, and subsequently evangelized the strategy of Amiga, Inc. at best I could, with articles, postings and meetings of the Bielefeld Amiga Users & Developers. I was there during the dark years, and I think this makes me an "Amigian". This "being Amigian" found a sudden, surprising, painful end in the morning of April 1st. The scene was set at the St. Louis Amiga Show. With big words it had been announced this show would be a "ground shaking event", a day that would put all previous presentations and announcements to shame. In a way, I think Amiga, Inc. stood up to this promise.

Preliminary

Amiga, Inc. had targeted a completely new concept, based on the Elate / intent technology of the Tao Group: An operating system (rather, operating environment), that could be deployed independently of the underlying hardware, on almost any architecture (PowerPC or x86 desktops, STB, PDA, server, ...). Additionally, there was the option of being installed "hosted", as a seperate application, under every major operating system.

The concept was simple and made sense: Software written for the AmigaDE would run on any operating system, any architecture. No more porting, no more making the wrong decision with the target platform. The capability for "hosted" deployment would have allowed to slowly penetrate the market, step by step drawing in developers and applications, replacing more and more of everyday computing by Amiga software, until the day the host becomes irrelevant.

Expectations

So I was sitting at my keyboard, hours before dawn, curious for what would come. Did they complete the SDK, including 3D and audio support? Did they convince one of the major Linux distributors to bundle the AmigaDE with their distribution? Did they find a strong financial support?

Shortly before the interview started, rumors arose Amiga, Inc. would announce AmigaOS 4.0 PPC native. That would be a bitter pill, I thought, further dividing users, developers and retailers - some focusing on AmigaDE, others on OS 4.0, and both projects failing miserably... On the other hand, I felt sympathetic with the users who did spend significant amounts into their PPC Amigas, and wanted to continue using that hardware.

Decisions

The decision, when it finally came, was about the hardest blow since Jim Collas left. Bill McEwen officially labeled the AmigaDE "no MP, no VM, for PDAs only". For desktop and server systems, AmigaOS 4.x PPC native would be developed, which would see memory protection being added "in one of the future versions". As a sidenote, this OS 4.0 would not run on existing hardware, but only on AmigaOne systems. Over the time, OS 4.x and AmigaDE would then be merged and Amiga be led into a golden future. Bill McEwen seemed to think this was very funny, as you can easily hear yourself by listening to the MP3 of the question-and-answer session.

I was dumbfounded. I felt sick, I was unbelievably angry, and if it wasn't early morning, I probably would have tried to shout at McEwen through the modem cable and shake him violently. So I only shook my head when some hours later I read on various online forums that this decision even found applause among users.

Consequences

I might be wrong. Amiga might make a furious comeback with this strategy. But I cannot believe in it anymore. What are the consequences of this decision?
  1. OS 4.x shall be deployed on servers. Memory protection on desktop systems might be a matter of taste, for servers it is simply a necessity. According to McEwen, memory protection will not be implemented until OS 4.2, which are a minimum of 12 months on Amiga, Inc.'s roadmap. Until then, AmigaOS will not be deployed on production servers, and I even doubt it will after this date: Who can name a company employing servers based on PowerPC CPUs?
  2. AmigaOS 4.x will not run on existing hardware. This means OS 4.x can only be sold to those purchasing an AmigaOne. Many "old" users will stick with their present systems. Some will jump to other platforms entirely. Why anybody from e.g. the Linux or Windows community should buy an AmigaOne (that cannot run *any*thing besides OS 4.x and LinuxPPC), is completely beyond me.
  3. The people who bought a SDK or even a d'Amiga have been completely left "under fire without air cover" by Amiga, Inc. For the foreseeable future, Amiga's plans for the AmigaDE and the SDK encompass PDAs, STBs and internet enabled laundry machines only. The few remaining programmers, which hungered for an opportunity to write applications like word processors, e-mail clients and 3D games for the AmigaDE, and did invest into what they thought is the first generation of the new Amiga, are now facing the decision to either do a summersault backwards by exchanging their x86 machines for new PPC hardware, or having to wait another couple of years until OS 4.x and AmigaDE finally grow together.
  4. Those who buy an AmigaOne can use it under AmigaOS 4.x or LinuxPPC. Should Amiga, Inc. fail with it's current strategy, only LinuxPPC remains. And this for a price tag that easily purchases a x86 PC, offering other options like the better supported x86 Linux, Windows, QNX, BeOS, AROS, WinUAE and over half a dozen other operating systems.
  5. Until Amiga, Inc. can stand up to it's promise of providing an operating environment that scales from mobile phone all the way up to servers, independently of the hardware, a minimum of another three years will pass, according to Mr. McEwen.

I will not speculate about the chances to penetrate a market that, until then, will be secured by Embedded Linux and Microsoft .NET. This year, perhaps even next year still, capabilities like scalability and binary compatibility could have earned a big success. But what a shame, competition is moving just the same direction, and history proves that superior technology doesn't win the race once Microsoft reaches "full steam ahead".
With all generosity, I cannot make sense of the current plans of Amiga Inc. anymore. They force old users as well as the developers on the "bleeding edge" to buy new hardware, they delay the time schedule for their big promises for years to come, and Bill McEwen laughs his head off over it.

Sorry, I'm fed up. I wish Amiga Inc. and the remaining community all the best, and it would be a very pleasant surprise to me should I be proven wrong. But since Sunday, April 1st, 2001 my time as an active "Amigan" is over, because in Snoqualmie, they obviously live in a red-and-white checkered padded cell, or an ivory tower, but in any case they seem to have lost any sense for reality. (unk) (Translation: unk)

[News message: 03. Apr. 2001, 10:29] [Comments: 0]
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