PowerUp - The Next Generation

phase 5 digital products announces an Amiga-OS-compatible computer for 1997




Oberursel, May 1996: Oberursel, May 1996: According to the plans of phase 5 digital products, Oberursel near Frankfurt, Germany, the coming year, 1997, will be a year of joy for all Amiga enthusiasts. As an expansion of the PowerUp project, which involves developing PowerPC processor cards for existing Amiga models, the company has announced that an independent Amiga OS-compatible computer system will be available in the first six months of 1997, representing a revolution on the computer market.

"We will continue to give our full support to the Amiga idea because as we were among the first Amiga users we continue to believe in the advantages and superior concepts of the Amiga", says Wolf Dietrich, Managing Director of phase 5 digital products. "However, it is high time for a radical leap forwards in technology that needs to be borne by a vision of a computer for the next millennium. We have seen too many half-hearted efforts in the last few years."

In the view of Gerald Carda, Technical Director at phase 5, it is necessary to take a step towards complete innovation in order to realise such a vision. "Concepts that build up on the standard components of the PC world never offer the scope that give a computer system the lead that the Amiga 1000 had over other systems 12 years ago."

In line with this philosophy, the new computer will be based on a highly integrated Custom Chip design which, as a central functional unit, will enable the system to achieve a hitherto unknown performance. "We will demonstrate the possibilities that are inherent in the resolute and single-minded pursuit of a new development that does not become submerged in the mainstream of adaptation to the Wintel world and the general tendency towards economy in the PC mass market which more or less throttles innovation for the sake of saving one single dollar", continues Gerald Carda. Despite this, the system now being announced is not intended to become a dream machine in the high price category. In the words of Wolf Dietrich: "On the basis of our current price calculation we will be able to offer unusually good value for money for which our products for the Amiga market are already renowned."

It is actually true that the extremely high degree of integration and the realisation of novel concepts will make it possible to achieve a performance that explodes existing bounds. Based on the PowerPC as the main processor, the new computer, in addition to the high performance of the processor, offers hardware support for multimedia (MPEG) and 3D functions, while even the basic system offers a resolution of 1600x1200 pixels at 24-bit color depth and a refresh rate of 72 Hz. At the same time special functions for image and video effects have been implemented in the hardware. In addition there are audio inputs and outputs in stereo CD quality, a video-compatible and Genlock-capable 24-bit video output and an FBAS/S-VHS video input. Along with the usual interfaces, the system is rounded off by a Fast SCSI-II controller, a network interface and an ISDN interface. With these features a complete system with a 120 MHz 603e PowerPC, 16 MByte memory, a SCSI hard disk of 1 GB and a quad-speed CD ROM will be available for a purchase price of around 3,000 DM (1,400 £ or 2,000 US$, respectively) on the basis of the present market prices for the components. "We hope that in just about one year from now we will even be able to offer a 150 to 166 MHz 603e-processor at this price", anticipates Wolf Dietrich. "In terms of performance the processor has no problems in keeping up with a Pentium processor with an equally fast clock. However, there is no sign of any comparable graphic performance anywhere the PC field and the features of our systems will be difficult to match." There will be a similar system available with a PowerPC 604-e processor and 150 MHz for about 4,000 DM (1,800 £ or 2,700 US$, respectively).

Although phase 5 digital products state that the total concept for the system has already been under development for quite some time and has practically been concluded, it is not possible to publish a more exact description of the system features at the present point in time. "At the moment we are intensively concerned with looking into whether it would be worth applying for a patent for any of the concepts we have developed and, if so, for which. So unfortunately we are not able to publish more precise details of the concept until after this process has been concluded and we have possibly applied for protection by patent", says Gerald Carda. For this reason we cannot reckon with any publication of the full system specifications until the end of June.

Not only the hardware concept of phase 5, but also the software approach comes as a surprise. The new computer system will be supplied with a completely new operating system written in Native PowerPC code, but with binary compatibility with Amiga-OS 3.x. Here Gerald Carda has the following comments: "As we are already developing an Amiga-compatible PowerPC-Exec with an expansion library and a PowerPC CyberGraphX version in the context of the PowerUp developments, it is the logical consequence that the next step will be the innovative development of the other components. An operating system that is compatible with Amiga-OS 3.x makes it possible for the user to continue to use the existing software that can run under CyberGraphX, while developers who already give massive support to CyberGraphX will be able to continue to maintain and develop their products at the present level. In this way we will be enabling Amiga users to switch to the new system without any problems." "In addition", continues Gerald Carda, "we will be opening up ways of making considerable improvements in the internal structure and extensive additions to the scope of functions". Besides the 24-bit support which has already become a standard due to CyberGraphX, Gerald Carda names the coming CyberGraphX 3D and multimedia interface as an example. There will also be an optimisation of the system's performance and a revision and adaptation of the user interface in line with the functional and optical state of the art. "For years Amiga-OS has represented the conceptual realisation of ideas that today are propagated by many to be special innovations. This means that reprogramming will make it possible to achieve a really highly powered and modern OS. Of course our system will also be open for other operating systems or emulations, such as MacOS or an X-Windows link-up. The discussion concerning so-called new operating systems, however, was intended more as marketing hype than as a realistic alternative."

The commitment with which phase 5 digital products will force forward this project is reflected not least in the considerable volume of investment that has been made in the development. "By the middle of 1997 we will have invested seven-digit figures in this project", says Wolf Dietrich. "We have the know-how, the development team, the technical equipment, the support from third parties (especially Motorola) and the financial basis for this project. The only thing that we still need is massive and positive support from the Amiga user basis. With this early disclosure of our objectives we expect to receive the anticipated response from the users, for, after all, such a project only makes sense if there is still a large number of convinced Amiga fans. We therefore appeal to all Amiga fans to write to us, to send us faxes or to contact us via E-mail (under the address specially set up for this purpose: aproject@phase5.de ). Every positive reaction will strengthen this forward-looking project."


PowerUP project continues to make progress

The PowerUp project also continues to make progress. "The delivery of the developer PowerPC boards will now start in summer", says Gerald Carda. "Unfortunately, we are a few months behind in our schedule due to extensive discussions between Motorola, Amiga Technologies and phase 5. These companies were to agree on a close cooperation and clarify a number of matters, especially with regard to new standards specific to the new PowerPC. After the discussion concerning a takeover by VIScorp started and the wave or redundancies that directly followed at Amiga Technologies, which led to most of the contact persons who had been involved in the projects leaving the company, AT abandoned the present cooperation. For this reason we will waste no further time and will continue with our project on our own, which was the way in which we started it. Nor can we wait any longer to see what VIScorp might possibly intend or not intend."

The support for external developers in the PowerUp program is now complete. More than 250 developers - including practically all noted commercial software suppliers in the Amiga field - are registered and their numbers are growing every day. This alone is evidence of the strong support for the future Amiga-compatible PowerPC platform. As from the second half of May, the registered users will now be able to order the PowerPC Beta developer boards from phase 5 which mean the green light for the hot phase of the world-wide software development.


Motorola appreciates the concept of phase 5

In the realisation of their new, innovative computer system phase 5 will be fully supported by Motorola. "We appreciate the powerful and innovative concept that phase 5 represents and we fully support the efforts of this company as a partner in our global PowerPC strategy." says John Letham, European Technical Marketing Manager, Motorola RISC Microprocessors. "We have had a number of joint meetings now and we are impressed by the know-how and vision that is the basis of phase 5's driving force."


Technology demonstrations
In close cooperation with Motorola phase 5 is preparing technology demonstrations, to be shown in due course, which will demonstrate the impressive capabilities of the next generation of PowerPC 603e CPUs at significantly increased clock rates. This programme is already underway and Summer of 1996 will see phase 5 present prototypes of PowerPC boards for Amiga 3000/4000 as well as for the Apple Macintosh 7500/8500/9500 series. "With the presentation of these new processors, Motorola as a leading semiconductor manufacturer clearly illustrates their capabilities demonstrating exactly why the next generation of PowerPC CPUs will hold the pole position in the microprocessor performance race". says Wolf Dietrich of phase 5. "Our computer system, when shipping next year, will also offer these extremely fast processors, delivering true high-end workstation performance. The higher speed of the CPUs will also deliver a performance increase to the upgrade boards for existing Amiga systems." With the presentation of this PowerPC technology demo on Apple MacIntosh system phase 5 digital products announces their entry into the MacIntosh accelerator market. This new branch of their operation will make additional use of the PowerPC know-how that is been build up in the Amiga development, while for both the Amiga and the MacIntosh PowerPC products an even more attractive pricing can be realized due to the higher quantity demands of PowerPC processors


phase 5 digital products on the situation of Amiga Technologies
In addition to this project announcement, phase 5 also made some side remarks on the current state of affairs with regard to Amiga Technologies. "To our regret we found that Amiga Technologies offers us no sort of outlook or basis for developing into the future", says Wolf Dietrich. "The first year of Amiga Technologies was marked by a continued chain of wrong decisions which have been responsible for the bad situation in which the company now finds itself. The results must be adequate to the objectives set in the spring of 1995 and in this respect they are more than disappointing. There is no getting away from this. In fact the same mistakes were made that were previously made at Commodore and partly by the same people. For example, attempts continue to keep technically outdated products on the market at unrealistic prices, which is particularly true in the case of the A4000T. Another point is that the marketing concepts are completely outdated, there is an absence of any kind of futuristic vision and a lack of any independent development, which is so pronounced that today AT neither has any 68060 technology to show for itself nor even a sign of any PowerPC technology. The brief spark of any independent development was extinguished again by the latest wave of redundancies. In this respect the only thing that we can just about expect from AT is that they sell off their large quantities of existing stock. These do give us some cause to hope that the existing products will be on the market for a while and that, in due course, they will be offered at more realistic prices. Finally, the only thing that can be said about the activities of AT is: They should have asked someone who knows his stuff."

In the opinion of phase 5 a takeover of Amiga Technologies by VIScorp does not awaken hope of any major innovations or any strengthening of the Amiga system. "So far we have heard nothing from VIScorp that would cause us to assume that anything different is being planned than the exploitation of the Amiga technology in a settop box. Nor do we see why this company, which must certainly concentrate all its efforts on realising its settop projects, should be interested in further pursuing the primary aim of continuing with the Amiga system. If this had been the case, it would already have been quite feasible for VIScorp to initiate such a project as a licensee of the Amiga technology." phase 5 sees this critical opinion confirmed by current events. "The actions of VIScorp do not convince us that they are serious in continuing with the Amiga. So far, for example, VIScorp has not directly spoken to the developers who were the last to support the Amiga. Nor was there any reaction when we tried to make contact. The VIScorp meeting in Toulouse that has now been announced lacks any kind of organisation and was called without there being any recognisable concept behind it. For this reason it is more than doubtful whether even a sign of any constructive result can be expected to come out of it, so that in our view it would be a pure waste of time to attend, as we have repeatedly found in the recent year at ESCOM meetings. We don't need a repeat of that." Let it be mentioned in passing that the hope often expressed in the general discussion, i.e. that in VIScorp Amiga will find itself taken over by a company that will finance the development of a new generation of Amiga products more or less from the petty cash, is something that Wolf Dietrich considers to be very optimistic. "For a start we had exactly the same expectations a year ago when everyone thought that the giant ESCOM would get things moving at Amiga from a standing position and quickly produce a new generation of Amiga computers for a more competitive price. Secondly we should first wait and see whether the figures that have been bandied about in the discussion concerning VIScorp's takeover of AT have any sort of real fundament."


About phase 5 digital products
phase 5 digital products, based in Oberursel near Frankfurt, are internationally operating manufacturers of hardware and software products. The company is entirely owned by its founders, Gerald Carda and Wolf Dietrich. Since the market launch of its first product line in 1992 this company, which consists of an experienced team of the first Amiga users and developers, quickly established itself as one of the leading manufacturers in the Amiga market. Since 1992 its products have been distinguished many times, including 20 awards for Product of the Year in Amiga journals. In 1995 phase 5 supplied accessories to the value of some DM 12 million (5.5 million £ or 8 million US$) in the Amiga market alone. Since the Christmas season of 1995 almost 30,000 hardware products have been delivered. The product portfolio for Amiga includes accelerator cards, SCSI controllers and graphics cards. In these fields phase 5 digital products has repeatedly proved itself to be manufacturer that is a forerunner and an innovative leader, for instance in bringing out the first Zorro III-DMA-SCSI controller world-wide, the Fastlane Z3, in producing the first 68030 card world-wide with a DMA-SCSI controller for the Amiga 1200, in offering the first 68060 card world-wide for Amiga systems (the Cyberstorm 060/50 for A4000), in manufacturing the first 64-bit graphics card world-wide with full system-integrated 24-bit support (the CyberVision64 for A3000/A4000) or in bringing out the first 68060 card for the A1200 world-wide, the Blizzard 1260. Along with intensive development activities as a Beta developer for Motorola in the 68060 and PowerPC field, hardware developments at phase 5 include pure research work in the field of multimedia high-performance DSPs and in the latest development department ASE (advanced silicon engineering) VLSI chip design. An expanding team of some 20 staff is currently working on these projects at the company's headquarters in Oberursel on premises covering an area of 960 square metres. In the adjoining service area, which covers an area of almost 600 square metres, the company, as from August 96, will be producing hardware products - including the new PowerPC products - in its own, highly modern manufacturing plant using the most recent manufacturing techniques.


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