I've been watching the progress of this project for the last couple of years. The impression that I've got is that they are not trying to create a "take over the world" OS but more of a "It would be cool if it caught on" type of project.
It is being developed by a small group of coders that work on it in their spare time. They have set up "bounties" as a cash incentive to reward people for completing certain key parts of the project. You may monitor the progress here.
There are many different ways to try out Aros. One is a Linux & FreeBSD "hosted" version (x86) that you can use. There is also a "native" version that runs on X86 machines. This version can be run from a CD or installed to a hard drive. For those of you that dont want to go through all this trouble just to try out this OS, There is an easier way: Enter Aros-Max.
Aros-max is a version of Aros that you can download and run right on your Windows PC. The download is an all in one package that runs Aros using QEMU ( an x86 emulator ). Just run the installer and it will present you with a folder called WinAROS-Max. Just double click the winaros.bat file and you are greeted with a boot menu. From this point just use the top option to boot. The Nivida option won't do you any good since Aros is running inside an emulated environment.
After you hit "enter," the system boots up in about 7 seconds. You are then brought into the default screen of Wanderer. This is the Aros version of the Amiga "Workbench," which is the main work area of the OS. Anyone who has used AmigaOS should feel right at home. When you double click the Aros-max cd you are presented with a group of folders that are what you would expect from a default AmigaOS 3.1 setup.
One thing that I the noticed right away was how responsive everything was. even though it was running in an emulator, it seems very snappy. I really like the "gorilla" icons they are using. I think these were borrowed from gnome. Some people really dislike them but I think they look very cool.
I then proceeded to the "prefs" folder, this is were you can configure certain aspects of the OS. There are a couple of different items in here that were not part of the original OS 3.1 setup. One of them is the "Zune" preferences. Zune is the Aros version of the "Magic User Interface" (or MUI) which was a shareware app on the classic Amiga systems that allowed you to change the entire look of the OS.
There are also a few new things under the "tools" drawer. "pcitool" is a handy program for retrieving information about the pci hardware on your machine. there is also an Arosinstaller program that will allow you to install Aros to you hard drive. I don't have a system to test this out on yet, so you're on your own with this one.
The Work drawer is where you will find all the games, demos, and productivity apps. There are quite a few interesting things to try out but there aren't a lot of apps available to get any real work done. There is no TCP stack or networking tools available so that makes it a chore to get media files to try out the multimedia programs. There are bounties assigned to fulfill these gaps, so hopefully it's just a matter of time before these Apps are available. There are also no office-type apps available, with the exception of a basic text editor & calculator.
As an Amiga 3.1 replacement I think Aros has most of the pieces in place. It just doesn't have enough applications available to be a usable OS yet. The good news is that since most people have an x86 computer lying around, Aros-max makes it very easy for anyone interested to try it out with very minimal effort. I read that there will be a OSX version coming out in the near future for the Mac folks to try out.
About the Author: Paul Gallant runs a video production business based in Raleigh, NC and has been using computers ever since he started programing in basic on his Atari 400. He later moved to the Amiga and eventually traded it in for the x86 world. He's currently on a mission to make his computer world Microsoft free.