I have watched the progress of the “new Amiga” (OS and hardware) over the past couple of years. Given the past history of Amiga, I am happy to see that the company has been taken over by true fans of the Amiga OS, who have a workable vision. In general, I think you came up with a good overall strategy:
1. Develop an Amiga OS for PDA/Set Top use (for immediate cash and Amiga visibility)
2. Update the existing Amiga OS
3. Develop the future Amiga OS: The Amiga Digital Environment (a cross platform OS)
I have also been happy to see you have been successful as far as step 1. You have developed Amiga Anywhere, demonstrated it at developer shows, and have already found a partner who will use the OS. That is an excellent start, it will provide Amiga, Inc with both needed cash and needed visibility.
As far as steps 2 and 3, you have informed the public that you are simultaneously working on both updates to the original Amiga OS and on the next generation Amiga OS, which is referred to as Amiga DE (Digital Environment). This is the first issue that concerns me. Although I feel that you should be looking into the next generation Amiga OS, I feel your priority should be to keep the existing Amiga user base. In fact, I think a crash program is required. Amiga users have stayed with the Amiga OS for a long time, without seeing many updates. As you know, updates have been supplied by the users themselves for the past few years, but significant updates are required immediately. Timing is critical. In the past six months Windows XP and Mac OS 10.1 have been released. There is now a choice of two operating systems that feature multitasking, memory protection, dynamic memory, that also emphasize ease of use. Although the Amiga OS still has advantages, it is getting harder for Amiga users to justify staying with the Amiga.
A few years ago Apple computer was in the same place that Amiga, Inc is in now. They had gone through numerous management changes and the Mac OS was not updated as planned. In fact, it was way past due for an update. Apple had planned to have an updated stable multitasking OS before Microsoft came out with Windows 95, but it didn’t happen. Apple realized they couldn’t extend the existing Mac OS and that they would have to start over and come out with a whole new OS. Many began to predict Apple’s demise. Yet Apple turned it around.
Consider Apple computer’s approach: even though their main goal was to develop OS X, they continued to update and improve the existing OS. They first introduced OS 8 which brought many overdue improvements to the Mac OS, that enabled it to continue to compete with Windows 95/98. Thereafter, Apple continued to offer a number of updates to OS 8. Eventually they released OS 9, and have continued to provide updates to OS 9, even though OS X has already been released. In doing this, Apple kept their existing user base, and continues to keep their user base, as the move to OS X continues. Even though the “Mac Classic OS” doesn’t have true multitasking capability, or memory protection, or dynamic memory allocation, Apple has managed to keep the OS viable by updating it in other ways, and offering various programs, such as iTunes, that added value to the OS.
Amiga, Inc needs to take this approach with the existing Amiga OS. There hasn’t been an update to the Amiga OS since 3.9, and that was over a year ago. I recognize the move to Amiga OS 4 and PPC hardware is a big move, but continual software updates are needed in the meantime, to maintain visibility, and to maintain morale. Existing users need to feel the company will continue to work to keep their OS current, words only go so far. Apple would have at least issued 3.9.1 by now (and probably 3.9.2) and they would have released various add on programs, like iTunes, to add value to the OS. Such updates also provide cash flow to the company for future projects.
I feel that Amiga Inc., fails to see the potential value of the existing Amiga OS. The current Amiga OS seems to be viewed simply as a stepping stone to the next Amiga OS. Amiga, Inc needs to remember that the existing Amiga OS is what has kept the user base for this long, not the promise of a new future OS. Yes, it has limitations, and can’t be extended forever, but it still has many advantages. It is a compact, fast, mulitasking OS still offering features that neither Windows, Mac, or Linux have. The potential speed of the existing Amiga OS on newer hardware could be a selling point in itself. The small compact size lends it to applications where Windows or Macintosh OS would be impractical. And many of the programs written for the Amiga OS also provide added value to the Amiga OS. I am concerned that Amiga Inc. isn’t exploiting all the potential of the existing Amiga OS.
As far as hardware, I am glad to see that Amiga is working on new hardware, but again, I think there is much more potential than has been seen. What about an Amiga PDA? Or an Amiga laptop? Or any hardware that fills a need that hasn’t been addressed. Again, look at Apple: they introduced laptops that were so well liked people switched to the Mac OS to use the laptop. Look at the iMac, the first one and now the recent one. It has users switching to the Mac just for the look of the hardware. Certainly there is such a potential for Amiga hardware. The compact size of the Amiga OS, and limited hardware requirements, may allow for a low cost laptop, or other unique hardware that Windows or Macintosh hardware could never match.
Finally, I recognize a new OS will be needed. You can only extend the current OS for so long (however, it could be for longer than you might think). The current plan is to develop the Amiga DE, which will run on almost any platform. The idea sounds good, but looking at Windows XP, Mac OS X, Linux, and now Lindows, I wonder if Amiga DE could offer anything that makes it stand out?
At first the new Amiga OS was going to be based on the QNX OS, then on Linux. I think having a Linux based OS opens a whole new possibility for the Amiga. Given the popularity of Linux, and all the existing Linux software, I think there is considerable potential. Linux has many strengths, but Linux is still complicated for the average user. Installing Linux can be complex, and getting drivers can be a problem. What is needed is for a company to offer a Linux OS, pre-loaded on hardware, that is easy to use, and provides all the needed drivers. In others words, do the same thing for Linux that Apple did for Unix with OS X.
As a final suggestion, I would like to ask Amiga Inc, to consider the possibility of offering computers with either the Linux or Lindows OS. In doing so they would provide a third choice of OSs pre loaded on computers, and would provide backing that may make Linux or Lindows a more viable option for the public.
About the Author:
Roger is an engineer in the computer-video field. He is a Mac and Amiga fan, and would like to see Amiga become more of a factor in the computer industry. He feels the Amiga offers a nice alternative to the bloated OSes already in existance. You can email Roger here.