Despite the recent emergence of several new ways to actually run AmigaOS 4.0, the supply of machines is still extremely small, and not very future proof. As such, one of the most recurring questions within the Amiga community is why don’t they port the darn thing to x86?
The past few days and weeks, Amigaworld.net has been overladen with threads and comments about the x86 question, and it has even driven someone to set up a crude bounty for an x86 version for AmigaOS 4.0. The current x86 thread was started March 19, and already measures 692 posts in 35 pages.
There are several standard replies to the x86 question within the Amiga community. There are people who still see a future in the PowerPC market, even after years and years of utter misery. Sadly, even though the PowerPC platform is far from dead, it simply doesn’t play a role any more in the desktop market. Whenever a company announces an AmigaOS4-capable board, we’re getting hardware that’s 9 years old with an insane price tag.
A number of Amigans even go as far as to say that people shouldn’t be able to get AmigaOS4 so easily, and they complain that people who want an x86 variant of the AmigaOS are just looking for a free ride. The word “elitist” doesn’t even begin to describe this attitude.
There also also people who claim that moving AmigaOS4 to x86 would mean the end of the Amiga operating system, because it would not be able to compete with other x86 operating systems such as Linux and Windows. This seems like a rather odd reasoning to me: we cannot compete if we run on x86, but we can compete if we run on underpowered, overpriced hardware, with no option for people to try it out before buying? Logic is something that has left much of the Amiga community long ago.
Another, much more valid reply is that there already is an x86 Amiga operating system: AROS. AROS is open source, free, and runs on lots of hardware, and can even have other operating systems as hosts. However, it is ‘only’ source-compatible with AmigaOS, not binary compatible. This, however, is a moot point in this discussion since a possible x86 version of AmigaOS4 wouldn’t be able to run legacy software either.
Sadly, the discussion itself seems to be moot since Hyperion, who develop AmigaOS4 might not be allowed to port AmigaOS4 over in the first place. The company is entangled in a legal battle with Amiga, Inc., a battle no one really understands any more. Still, these legal troubles have not prevented Hyperion from releasing AmigaOS4 for the Pegasos II, which raises the question just how much of a limiting factor the lawsuit actually is.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but there’s little anyone can do. It’s really too bad, because AmigaOS4 certainly has something to offer to many enthusiasts. As it stands now, however, getting AmigaOS4 is simply too much of an investment in a relatively old and limited platform, and especially in the economic climate we’re in today, few people will shell out boatloads of money for a toy operating system.