Three Men, a Cow, and the Beating of the Dead Horse

The Amiga world is an interesting one to follow. As an outsider, it is almost impossible to fully understand all the processes at work over there. The various companies, the individuals, the developers, The Three Men And A Cow who own an AmigaOne – they are not making it any easier. The past few weeks have seen quite a few news items regarding the Amiga platform. Did they help in creating a clearer picture of where the Amiga stands?First we had Ars Technica publishing a series of articles about the Amiga’s history. Ars’ Jeremy Reimer takes us through the birth and growing pains of the Amiga – both its hardware as well as its operating system. The picture I got from these articles was that the developers behind the Amiga were people who dared (excusez-moi for the cliche) to think outside of the box. They were devoted to creating the best computing platform in the world, and in order to achieve that with the limited funding they had at their disposal, had to come up with some very creative solutions – leading to a platform that was way ahead of its time.

At the same time, news trickled out that the next Amiga operating system (at OSNews, we dubbed it AmigaOS 4+1, seeing AmigaOS 5 is already taken) would get a sort of virtual environment, in which AmigaOS 4 applications would run as separate tasks, in their own address space.

In between all this, the Amiga community was debating whether or not the hardware promised by ACK Controls would appear. ACK had promised machines would be available during the summer of this year, but September 22nd was approaching fast, and ACK did not show any tangible proof of the existence of this hardware – no photos, no developer boards, nothing. As many had already anticipated, it seemed as if ACK Controls had made yet another promise to the Amiga community they could not fulfill. The fact that ACK would not appear at the Pianeta Amiga show last weekend only strengthened this feeling.

The summer is now behind us, and no machines from ACK Controls, and I think it is fairly safe to say that these machines will never appear at all. ACK promised a machine faster than anything Apple had ever produced on the PowerPC side of things, which would mean a machine faster than the Quad Core PowerMac G5. A fairly outlandish claim, and yet another one they could not fulfill.

A sparkle of hope, however, was that Hyperion would be present at the ACube booth at Pianeta Amiga. ACube has a PowerPC board capable of running AmigaOS 4, so the community was hopeful that at Pianeta Amiga, Hyperion would announce new Amiga hardware: ACube’s SAM440ep, coupled with the Amiga OS. However, the outcome turned out not to be what everyone had hoped for – a recurring theme in the Amiga world.

Hyperion did not announce AmigaOS 4 for the SAM440ep board. On top of that, the board itself was kind of a let down, as even its Linux implementation was unstable and incomplete. The price of the board is fairly hefty too, compared to, for instance, Genesi’s Efika; the SAM440ep costs round and about EUR 500 (excl. taxes), which is quite a lot of money for a board without AmigaOS 4 and a not-so-good Linux implementation.

There was one bit of good news from Hyperion at Pianeta Amiga, however: AmigaOS 4 for classic Amigas. Supposedly done in a few weeks (where did we hear that before?), the only thing holding it back is the unfinished installer. The Amiga lawsuit apparently has no effect on the release of AmigaOS 4 for classic Amigas, so it is safe to assume that it are not legal problems holding AmigaOS 4 back on the SAM440ep.

As if all the above was not enough news for the Amiga platform, on Tuesday we had Tedd Gallion, speaking on behalf of DiscreetFX and its partners, saying that they have plans to buy the Amiga brand and its operating system from Amiga, Inc., but that Amiga, Inc. had asked a ridiculously high price. He urged the Amiga community to contact Amiga, Inc. to tell them to lower the asking price. DiscreetFX soon replied, stating that Tedd Gallion had spoken on his own admission – but that he in fact did mean well.

That is a lot of news to digest for such a small platform. Many have stated in OSNews’ comment section on Amiga items that the beating of the dead horse ought to be stopped. Why is it that OSNews gives all this attention to the Amiga platform? It has to do with the fact that the Amiga is one of the few platforms out there that are really doing things differently. They focus on non-standard hardware, they have an interesting and different user interface, and, lest we forget, has an extremely interesting heritage. Throw all this together, and you can see why Amiga tickles my interest.

However, slowly, but surely, the realisation starts to dawn on me that the Amiga platform will never crawl out of the valley it currently resides in. Beating upon beating it takes; false promises, lawsuits, delays, you name it. I would not want to classify the Amiga as dead (I mean, there are still those Three Men And A Cow who own an AmigaOne with OS4), but to say that it is in coma is almost too positive.

Does this mean the Amiga heritage is getting lost too? No, most certainly not. Firstly, we have MorhpOS. Sadly, however, its status currently is not much different from that of AmigaOS: there is no hardware you can buy right now that is supported by MorphOS, since the Pegasos and the ODW are no longer being sold. In addition, MorphOS 2.0 has been announced eons ago, but despite promises of “only a few more weeks” (here we go again), has yet to materialise beyond a few videos at conventions. MorphOS 2.0 supposedly will add support for Genesi’s Efika and (soon-to-be-ready) Efika2 hardware.

So, MorphOS might not be your best bet as an Amiga developer or fan. There is an AmigaOS clone, unencumbered by legal issues and lack of hardware, that you can run on your bog-standard x86 machine today. Installing it is a bit of a pain (I tried), but you can get it installed: AROS. It runs beautifully as a live CD, looks rather dashing too, and is open source.AROS's mascot, Kitty

If you want to see a future for the Amiga platform, stop waiting for AmigaOS4 and its lawsuits and lack of hardware; forget MorphOS which you cannot buy anywhere right now (nor hardware that runs it). Focus on the option that is open source, unencumbered by legal issues, available now, runs on standard hardware, and can really use your time and devotion: AROS. At this point in time, that is where the future of the Amiga platform lies.

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