As Head of the Product Planning Group of the new Amiga Technologies GmbH, I would like to give you an overview about the past and the technical future in our view.
The company Commodore started in 1958 as a typewriter repair company followed by production of electric typewriters, digital watches, calculators and video games. In 1977, there was launched one of the first real desktop computers, the legendary PET 2001. It was followed by the CBM series, where the CBM 8032 dominated the German bureau market in 1980 and the following years, just before the breakthrough of the IBM PC. These 8000 series had a reputation of being especially easy to use and to program and being robust.
Simultaneously, Commodore started the Home Computer market in 1981 with the VIC 20, soon followed by the C64. The C64 became the top-selling computer ever, its success and sold number is again only comparable to the Volkswagen beetle. In this way, Commodore had generated two different markets which complemented each other nicely.
The year 1985 brought great news. In spring, Commodore introduced the IBM-compatible PC 10, and in July in New York during a gala show the Amiga.
To show more concretely where the Amiga comes from, here is a picture of the genius behind the Amiga Custom Chips, Jay Miner, who passed away last year.
The breakthrough for the Amiga came in 1987, when the first Amiga 1000 was followed by two successors, the Amiga 500 as a dedicated home computer and the Amiga 2000 as a professional workplace computer. The A500 became immediately the star of the home computer scene and dominated it for several years, so that Commodore nearly gained a monopoly in this low-cost market. On the other end, the A2000 featured the Open System Architecture, so that add-on vendors could offer everything from an external video digitizer to a turbo board with a bigger processor. One other unique Amiga feature helped here, which is called "AutoConfig". You can just plug in cards and don't need to bother for DIP switches or jumpers, a feature that's only now slowly emerging as the "Plug&Play" also on PCs.
The year 1994 brought the breakdown of Commodore, after the financial reserves had been exhausted by some fatal management decisions. The liquidators tried to sell the company, but only in spring 1995, on the auction of April 20th and 21st in New York, the German company ESCOM won and took over Commodore completely.
Under the wing of ESCOM AG, Amiga Technologies GmbH will concentrate exclusively on the Amiga, to restart its production and develop it further.
The current Amiga generation offers a full palette from the absolute low-end - the multimedia game console CD32 - over the full-featured home computer A1200 up to the high-end with the A4000 Tower. Concurrent platforms try to state it as normal that you get a trade-off between enhanced features and speed. But the Amiga shows that this has not to be the case for a really modern operating system. The professionality of the Amiga's video features shows up frequently in the recent past, in that several TV series in USA are now produced completely on Amigas for their video effect parts. Two examples are SeaQuest DSV and Babylon 5.
After the takeover the new company is conscious of the necessity to further develop the Amiga platform, as the competition has not stood still. The new Amiga company will therefore install an engineering division that can make the transition into a new generation happen.
In the mid term future this will lead to stronger processors and otherwise enhanced versions of the current models.
The big perspective for the future consists in a port of the Amiga architecture to a RISC platform, to assure the awaited power for the future. The very first task of this new engineering division will be to prepare this decision. Which of the concurring RISC platforms will be the optimum for the special case of the Amiga, is no trivial decision. On one side, it is a goal to bring the Amiga nearer to the "Mainstream", so that it becomes easier to port and run existing application programs. On the other hand, the future computer should always remain recognizable as an "Amiga" that is not assimilated among an amorphous mass of similar computers. The Amiga once started with far superior graphics and sound capabilities, and should by all means regain this advantage.
To fulfill both requirements, there are currently two alternatives, the PowerPC and the HP PA RISC. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and they will get thoroughly judged.
Concurrent with this, the operating system will have to get adapted to this new hardware platform, plus will adapt to new requirements like 3D graphics, texture mapping, Object Oriented design and other current technologies. This task will be not as difficult as some might suspect, as we can build on a basis which was always designed with progress in mind. Let's look forward to a great future of the Amiga architecture!