With interest I have read Dave's comments on the current Amiga situation. As we and the Amiga are in a situation where a lot of major decisions for the future of this system are to come, I would like to answer some of his comments to reflect our position and partial different view of things.
First of all, there was no animosity on our part against AT - we just wanted to get things going, and so we started the PowerUP project in late 95 as AT wasn't giving any view or commitment. We had been offering AT all of our support for quite a long time, and continued to do so in a situation where there was no development, no resources, no vision; what Dave believes to be an animosity was simply the great concern that things wouldn't go into the right direction for the Amiga. Meanwhile, all development on AT side is cancelled, so there is no more cooperation as there is nothing left to cooperate in.
But let's get into some technical considerations. First of all, Dave states that our software development is kind of a hack. Funny to hear that, as he has not seen a single line of code, and also was not involved in in-depth discussions about what we are doing. To simply state the facts: For our PowerUp program, which's goal is to develop PPC upgrade boards for existing Amiga systems, we have re-written Exec and Expansion in PPC Natice Code, and two versions of 68k emulators to run the rest of the OS out of the system ROM. This is not a kind of a hack, but simple the first step which we could realize. Our plan to add a PPC native version of CyberGraphX - which has emerged as a standard today - is just a software add-on to increase the performance of those upgraded systems where parts of the OS have to be emulated. This way is not very different from, for example, having a 68040 or a 68060 library to emulate in software what is different in the processor hardware - however, as 68k and PPC have some significant differences, it can not simply be realized by a library or a new setpatch, but needs a completely re-written, but fully function-compatible Exec.
Now getting to the comments on the hardware design. First of all, I leave it up to the public to judge if our announced systems are overpriced (see http://www.phase5.de/ in the news section); also the non-standard argument is missing any fundamental. I know from the technology meetings which AT, Motorola and phase5 joined in the recent months, that Dave's vision of a new computer is a standard PPRP mainboard, with a PPC CPU and a PCI bus and that's it; any idea of adding something specific which would have to be developed had been rejected by him in these discussions. But, all innovative developments today contain some individual parts, mostly in form of FPGAs or ASICs; it's the only way to build something that stands out of the mass markets. We at phase 5 definitely believe that a new Amiga system needs some unique H/W features as it had in the past; just having a ported OS running on a standard PPRP system which also runs MacOS, WindowsNT, and so on, would be the death of AmigaOS simple as there would be no sufficient reason for S/W developers to continue writing their code for Amiga OS. But even if Amiga OS would survive for some time with some application or shareware support, it would be the death of the Vision Amiga which never had been just another PC (no matter if there is a PPC or a Pentium inside).
As Dave's comments on the rapid changes of the industry are concerned: We know these rapid changes, we live - succesfully - in this world. Are chips more complex to design today? Chips are more complex, but sophisticated design tools, powerful design workstations, and comprehensive functionality libraries are available today for ASIC designers. Today it's possible to start *VERY* complex designs on FPGA basis and go to the more expensive silicon in certain stages of the development. IC processes are *NOT* exponentially more expensive than some years ago, at least not for companies who want to do custom designs and get strongest support from various ASIC suppliers in the world, among them the very big names such as Motorola. Yes, even those big ones go together to build new fabs for the next millennium, but were we talking about building a next generation IC fab?
As a summary of this, let me say the following: It has never been easier even for medium-sized companies to develop own, complex and demanding custom ICs than today. In such custom designs, visionary ideas can be realized cheaper than ever to provide extremely powerful products. Yes, by choosing *COMPLETELY* standard system (such as fully-assembled PPC mainboards) the cost of a system may be reduced by some bucks - but not by hundreds of Dollars. And that's what we, as we stated, don't want to do - dropping great concepts and features that make up a very special and powerful system to maybe save $25.
OK, all practical bits aside, Dave came up with the question what will come out in the end. It's as simple as this: A computer that runs a PPC OS which is compatible with Amiga OS. Long before this computer comes out, *LOTS* of developers who have already joined the PowerUp program and are supported by us can prepare their software to make use of advanced features of this new OS, while other existing software will be running with the current features in 68k emulation. As most professional software vendors do support the PowerUp program, PPC native apps should be there in a considerable quantity and quality by next year - just as, for example, many software companies today already support the CyberGraphX standard which has brought an Amiga-OS compatible 24-bit engine to all these programs and those users who have a hardware that can display 24 bits of color.
As a matter of fact, what we are doing is the development for a next generation OS which is Amiga compatible. We have decided to move on with our projects after we had lost months of futile discussions with AT - without those, beta developers today would have the first PPC developer boards in their hands. We can't afford to waste more time. We do see the problem that the Amiga community can't support multiple OSs, and we are absolutely open to discuss these issues with the owner of the OS, probably VIScorp, once they have time for us to talk about these things. However, Dave Haynie and the new company PIOS, which he is working for, must also keep this in mind. It's obviously PIOS, a new company, that starts out of nothing (and with no recognizable concept or development behing it) and claims for themselves to develop and market an OS "which will be recognized by the market as the next generation of the former AMIGA OS 3.1." (as read in their web site). This leaves a lot of questions open. We had meetings with the PIOS top management already, who requested our support and cooperation, so I must wonder whether Dave's comments are only given with an intention to support PIOS' position in the market. BTW, everybody out there may estimate if it is more realistic that an experienced hardware manufacturer, holding an established market position, develops a powerful custom ASIC based system, or that a startup company wants to bring the "ultimate Power Amiga" to life and reach a larger market share than Apple Computer in four years from now.
phase 5 is very well aware that it will be a big and demanding task to write an Amiga-OS compatible PPC OS; however, we have a large team of very experienced S/W developers, and we have been working on parts of this project for quite some time. While I can not judge how much efforts other mentioned companies spent into their projects, we are sure to reach our goals with the strong efforts we invest into this project.
To finalize my open answer, I must strictly reject that last comment from Dave, which we could see as an affront. We will neither adopt an unnamed OS nor will we offer an ugly hack; but much more important, we are not "stealing the AmigaOS", as Dave assumes. There are lots of peope out there, and companies which these people work for, who have been involved closely with Commodore or AT in the past, and do have access to proprietary information. We had several negotiations with AT, but no final agreements, and we never had any access to proprietary information or other proprietary stuff. Dave may address his assumptions that someone could steal the AmigaOS into the direction of such people mentioned above, but not into ours. Again, I strictly reject any statement that includes any such speculation.
I hope this statement supports readers building up their own opinion of the current situation around the Amiga. phase 5 digital products, to reinforce this, is committed to the idea and vision Amiga. We'll continue with our project and support for all Amiga developers, fans and users. Everybody out there please feel free to mail us her/his comments and suggestions for the future of the Amiga and our project.
General Manager of phase 5 digital products
Amiga-dedicated since the A1000
You can contact phase 5 digital products at:
Fax +49 6171 583789
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phase 5 digital products
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