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Benjamin Yoris (E-Mail)

Hyperion Entertainment blasts idea of x86 Amiga OS
Press release: Following the recent article in AmigActive and the announcement of the "Amithlon" product at Amiwest, we received quite a number of e-mails of people asking us our opinion about the desirability of a x86 AmigaOS as opposed to a PPC native OS.

Would we support it? What would be the consequences of a native x86 for Amiga developers?

In one word: disastrous. A native x86 Amiga OS would spell the end of all serious commercial development for Amiga OS.

Before we argue our point, let's get a number of things out of the way here first:

The fact that Hyperion specialises in porting software for Windows has no bearing on our position because the Amiga market is only of marginal economic importance to us.

We moreover do not wish to be drawn into a debate about the respective merits of the PPC versus x86 architectures. Both CPU families deliver the goods in terms of performance and have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Unparalleled multimedia performance (Altivec), low power consumption and a clear 64 bit upgrade path for the PPC family and rapid development, raw horse-power and low price-point for the x86 family.

We also do not want to belittle the technical feats accomplished by VMC: their Amithlon product is technically impressive and very fast.

It also holds the danger of ending all serious commercial development for Amiga.


Because as soon as a x86 enters the picture, along tags Windows. In essence, the temptation for x86 users to have Windows installed in parallel to a native Amiga OS x86 will be irresistible and we will be seeing «dual boot» systems as we saw on Beos and now Linux x86.

Both Beos and Linux serve as a stern warning about what happens if you try to compete with Windows on the same hardware: you become relegated to a Windows add-on product without any native software to speak of.

Beos, despite being a very impressive OS, failed to get any marketshare, never had any serious applications and Hyperion has more game licenses than there were ever games for Beos.

Take a look at the Linux situation which we experienced first hand. How many native apps and games does Linux have? Despite the very large installed base, Linux only has one serious game developer (Loki) and the number of serious (non-server related) native apps can be counted on one hand.

The reason is simple: why would a software company invest money in porting its software to another x86 OS when it knows people can also boot into Windows or run an «emulator» like Wine or VMWare which allows you to run Windows software under Linux x86 at near native speeds? The costs could never be recuperated through sales.

The result is clear: nobody is buying any product for Linux. A major, brand-new game-title can at best expect to sell a few thousand copies on Linux and several tens of thousands on Mac. Plus on Linux x86 you need to keep your pricing in line with the Windows version (without having the benefits of the economies of scale that the Windows market offers) otherwise you will provide even more incentive for people to buy Windows products.

Linux x86 is currently relegated to the status of a Windows add-on with a lot of software (like the Corel products and media-players) just working on Linux x86 because it uses Windows code in some way or another.

Linux has carved out a very nice niche in the server and embedded systems markets but the desktop market is a joke with all major Linux companies closing down or shedding jobs because nobody was making any money with desktop Linux.

So when somebody asks you: who has the bigger market-share on the desktop, Red Hat Linux or Apple Mac, the answer is: who cares? The real question is: who is making (more) money on the desktop and what desk-top platform has a wider range of native applications and games.

Mac OS X could be brought to x86 relatively easily. The core of Mac OS X already runs on x86 but there isn't a hair on Steve Jobs' head that thinks about giving up his nicely insulated niche-market in favor of head to head competition with Windows on the same hardware. Apple wants its developers to stay in business so they can keep Apple's users happy by providing them with software not available on other platforms.

The resources that large commercial developers on Windows can command and the price-point they can reach by the sheer number of sales cannot be matched by developers on a niche-platform who can only survive in their niche-market if that platform is insulated from the Windows market.

People advocating a native x86 Amiga OS should look beyond the cheap hardware and understand they are condemning the Amiga desktop platform to become an emulation platform for old software with no new native software available.

Nobody but a handful of fanatics will pay more money to run a slower (partially emulated) version of the same or similar software on Windows when they can instead buy a cheaper, faster, native Windows-version which can run on the same hardware.

What good is cheap hardware when you have no software to run on your native x86 OS and you are forced to boot into Windows all the time? How long would it take before the development of such an OS would fall by the wayside because of low sales, which is exactly what happened to Beos?

Ben Hermans
Managing partner, Hyperion Entertainment (ps)

[News message: 30. Jul. 2001, 19:19] [Comments: 0]
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