VIScorp Information from the ACMontreal Convention

Date: Thu, 08 Aug 1996 11:04:18 -0400
From: Paper Tiger <>
Organization: Silent Paw Productions, Inc.
Newsgroups: comp.sys.amiga.hardware
To: Carl Eric Codere <>
Subject: AC 96 Notes and Discussions

I thought I would post this. It is a summary of AC96 discussions with Mr. Rosen, Jason Compton and others.

The following is a paraphrased transcript by Paul Sadlik of a speech and follow up questions with David Rosen (the Vice President for Business Development of VIScorp) at the ACMontreal convention on August 3rd, 1996. There are some additional comments in the text by Jason Compton (JC), who is now working with VIScorp.


To begin with, Commodore and Escom put everything they had into killing the platform. We want to make the Amiga live and we will be successful.


VIScorp was started by Roger Remillard in 1990. Don Gilbreath was brought in and developed a proprietary OS for the ED Box. Eventually we ended up licensing technology from the Amiga.

It became quickly clear that Escom had no money and that they had no idea what to do with the Amiga. As our relationship with Escom developed, it became clear that we should make an effort to get control of the Amiga. As licensees, we weren't close enough to controlling the development of the Amiga.

We believe in the Amiga OS. Our goal is to have two lines of business, including moving forward the Amiga OS. We also have the UITI with Emerson and the ED Box. This is or can be a large, wide open set top business. There is no Bill Gates standing in the way. Hopefully in the next month, we hope to get more licensing deals that can be used to finance the computer side of the business.

The dominance of the Microsoft/WinTel monopoly can leave a good niche for high end and low end machines. The set top box side can support the Amiga computer side financially and the development on the Amiga side can support the Set top box side.

For the Amiga, our goal in the short term is to come out with an 060 accelerator board.

We are also putting together an architectural design group. We want the best people to work in this open group to design the future Amiga. We will hopefully have some announcements next week of what they will do. There will be more people/engineers brought on board next week too.

This weekend, we came to thank you for supporting the platform and to show our support of the platform.


Q: Tell us more about your set top boxes?

Basically the UITI is an 1200/020. It provides access to the Internet and the WWW. It has also got a built in speaker phone, callerID, and telephone functions. With it you can send and receive faxes and Email. It is actually a stripped down version of the ED device.

The ED box will be out next February (?). It has a tuner (for cable) and a card swipe device. It has a modular communications port designed for a 28.8 modem, ISDN adapter, Ethernet, Cable modems, etc - whatever is needed.


Q: Have you made any pitches to TCI - and how do you compare with other set top


We are going after the smaller cable guys, since the large companies want more commitments than we could make. With the UITI box, we are talking with cable companies about leasing it to them and then they will rent them to their customers. We recently set up a test system for Booth Cable in Michigan called "BoothNet" with UITI boxes and a telephone connections to a Internet server. The test customers loved having this simple Internet connection, the callerID, the speaker phone.

With such systems we are providing the cable companies with a new additional form of revenue. Right now the cable system sucks (that's a technical term) - the systems are one way. So we bypass those systems with phone lines for going up stream. The users used our systems, liked them and that gives the cable company an edge in the

increasing competition.


Q: Will there be a difference between the set top boxes and the Amiga?

The Amiga is an open system, allowing the user to plug things into it. While the new ED box is a set top box, users can still use ports for floppy drives, keyboards, etc. We have also designed a new remote control that provides a small built in QWERTY keyboard to let people interact.


Q: What about a cable adapter for the Amiga?

There probably will be an Amiga ED card later. The browser we are working on will work on the Amiga, The RISC things probably will not run on the set top boxes, its too expensive. The set top box will probably have four megabytes or RAM, it will have room for a CD-Rom drive, it will run with Amiga OS, it will run Amiga applications.

We are trying to get a 300 dollar box out there and there are zillions of people out there that don't care what the box is. The browser will be designed to allow users to go directly to our server and buy more Amiga stuff and turn their boxes into computers.


Q: Will the ED software run on Amigas?

Of course.

We are also working with a group for developers to support the Amiga. We will have a password protected Amiga Internet site for developers. We hope to bring back the core Amiga developers and game guys, etc.


Q: What about all the proprietary software (Real Audio, Shockwave, etc) on the net?

We've talked with Sun about Java. Initially, we were thinking of trying to include in the set top boxes, but decided that would be too much at one time. We didn't feel it was appropriate to contact everyone yet.


Q: What about big companies and what about the hardware OS?

We have had discussions with everyone that was relevant. We've talked with Motorola, DEC, etc. Once everything happens legally, then we will do something concrete. Give us another month.


Q: Where will the old German Amiga Technologies (AT) fit in all this?

We are very aware that AT did an awful job. They never talked with folks in the UK, Italy, France, etc. Petro will probably stay in a selling capacity in Germany, since he knows the retail system/channels.

But Petro gave away the United Kingdom. We want to change that.


Q: What are the possibilities of new markets? China? India?

YES THERE ARE! There was a company in China, called New Star that bought the Chinese distribution rights for the 020, 030, 040 Amigas from Escom. We have been meeting with them and discussed future possibilities. We are very optimistic about what can happen there.


Q: Where is the company's focus going to be?

VIScorp has focused on the set top box, we are still trying to figure out what to do with the Amiga computer. That's the idea of the Architectural Design group. They will work on it and figure out where we can go with the platform, the OS, the processor question, etc.

JC: We are here to find out what has to go and what has to stay in the future machines. What do you want to buy in new Amigas?


Q: What about the Walker computer shown by Amiga Technologies?

The Walker was nothing. There was never anything there. It was barely running and still needed a lot of work.

The idea is that we will move forward. We will give out licenses as long as there are standards (from the Architectural Design group) followed and the sensitivity to the historic issues that the users might want.


Q: What about platform/CPU independence?

JC: There is only one company successfully shrink wrap OS's . They can run their OS on 8 processors at once. Maybe the Architectural Design group can lay it out and someone else can implement the OS on other platforms.

DR: I'm not an engineer, but I've heard Carl and Don talk about this. When they have put the OS on any RISC chip, they will be able easily be to port it from machine to machine.


Q: What about the Motorola PowerPC (PPC) RISC chips and the PowerPC platform standard?

The standards group will look into it. They don't know if they want to get that involved in something that Apple has had there hands on. They want something they want to make the Amiga desktop systems unique.


Q: Do you want Amiga software to work on your set top boxes, etc.

Our goal is not to sell software, but Amiga software should run on the set top boxes.


Q: Your buying the Amiga makes commercial sense for your set top box business, but sinking millions of dollars into a niche computer platform isn't bound to have a short or certain return. Why are you doing this?

There are two reasons we are buying the Amiga and going to build Amiga computers - defensive and offensive.

Defensively, we wanted to protect the OS and chipset to save our set top boxes. Escom was doing little with it and falling apart. In the Escom bankruptcy, the Chinese were bidding for Amiga Technologies too and they had few clues what they were buying or what to do with it.

Offensively, we believe there are enough people interested to provide a successful niche for the Amiga computers. It just needs to be done right.


Q: What can you tell us about the Amiga's presence at the Olympics?

There was a guy named Keith Cagle that brought in his 2500 Toaster system to the media center since there were so many people Europe and Latin America that couldn't deal with the Panasonic and Sony editing systems there. So he made some calls and got a number of Amiga developers to loan 6 complete Toaster/Flyer systems for he

journalists to use.


Q: What is the status with Phase5, PIOS and the Chinese?

Phase 5 has been talking with Jason Compton and they are cooperating. In private communications they have been much more cooperative than on the Internet.

When Escom went bankrupt, PIOS, the Chinese and VIScorp were the bidders for the Amiga.

DR: As they say in marketing, we want Amiga technology to "have legs". We want it to have a number of lines of expansion - to keep moving and advancing. The Amiga as a computer is one those avenues.


Q: What is your marketing strategy for America?

We take final possession of Amiga technology and rights on September 19th. We are here now to develop our strategies and find out what the users want. Check our web site for more developments.

This will be our Phoenix strategy.


What plans have you got for incorporating 3D technologies into the Amiga? The Cybergraphics 3D standard?

We want to see the Cybergraphics effort. Then look into possible chip sets, boards and software. After all that we will be able to say more.


The following is a paraphrased transcript of a questions and answers panel held with David Rosen (DR) and Jason Compton (JC) of VIScorp, and Dale Larson (DL) of Intangible Assets Manufacturing and formerly of Commodore. This panel was held on August 4th at the ACMontreal convention.


Q: Will there be a stop gap machines released before the RISC Amigas?

JC: We have a current inventory to machines to clear out. Also we don't want to "Obourne" ourselves.

The distribution channels needs to be more streamlined. No one knew who to buy from. In the U.S., we will use QuikPak, in Germany we will use the former Amiga Technologies. Distribution will be much better.

DL: Getting a new product out the door (even if already designed) would cost time and already limited resources from the RISC machines.

DR: This pushes the end point out for development of the RISC machines. I'd rather see the time for the Power Amigas, so we could get them out in the least possible time (12 months?).


Q: What about just cost reducing the existing Amigas and getting their prices to PC comparable levels?

JC: If we sell you a cheap amiga now, will you buy another one (the RISC Amiga) in a few months? This would cripple later RISC Amiga sales to the community. Just doing cheap machines wont do it.

DR: Any cheap machine will be compared with the performance (RAM, CPU power, etc) of the WinTel group. How well would these old Amigas sell?


Q: What about the Walker shown by Escom in the Spring?

JC: Don Gilbraith said that the Walker would take longer to finish than doing a similar, new machine from the ground up. It was not designed by Amiga people and it would hard to finish and make compatible.


Q: What can be done to give the Amiga momentum again?

DR: Initially, our attempt at VIScorp was to bring the Amiga back to life with set top boxes and let the network (Internet) be our channel to reaching the users for software, etc. But with the Amiga computer, it is dependent on the retail channel. We originally wanted to only do the set top boxes and then do the computer in 2 years.

Since getting involved with the purchase and the Amiga community, we have decided to work on Amiga computers, without trying to hinder our long term goals for the set top boxes.

JC: We are hoping to convince developers to wait a year for the new Amigas.

DL: Frankly, No - Developers cannot wait for the future (without sales unless VIScorp decides to hand out welfare checks.


Q: Will you use the Internet to support existing Amiga users?

DR: We are way ahead of you. We are going to use a California networking company to run our server and have an area to support developers with complete on-line docs. We want to see the Internet hold the community together. We build the necessary system in a piecemeal process.

DL: That used to be taken care of by CATS. Lately the Olaf Barthell's CD-Rom came out full of development materials for the support of developers. Everything that was secret under Commodore should be made public, all the development notes, newsletters, etc.


Q: What's going to happen with the assembly lines?

JC: There weren't any owned by Amiga Technologies. Everything was produced under contract on a shipment by shipment basis, so the lines weren't running full time anyway. They will do more 1200s and 4000s as needed.


Q: What is the strategy for enlarging the amiga market?

JC: That's why we are here. We are committed to selling the Amiga. We want to find the best method by which to do this.

DR: We want to work with anyone. Lets say you are a reseller. For example, there are people in Australia selling Amigas to the government for schools. We do all we can to help him, but he needs to do all he can do to. We provide the turnkey stuff that we can (adjust our prices, etc), but we have limited resources. Still, we will help any serious projects to the limits of our abilities.

With bigger deals we can do more. For example, we are going in a couple of days to one of the Canadian phone companies and making a set top box demonstration. A local Amiga guy put us together with them and we are going to see them.

With smaller companies that can support local buyers, we will support them and hope they can handle pushing the Amiga.


Q: Plans on licensing to other manufacturers?

JC: Wherever it makes sense, we will do it. We will make deals with any machines - even provide our designs. Show us the marketing plans, etc - if its good, sure.

DR: We are setting up the architectural design group to create the standards and protocols of the future operating systems and platforms. This will determine what people must do to build Amiga computers.

JC: We will lead this Architecture group and keep control of the shape of the operating system. We saw what PIOS and phase5 were doing and I was the first one to say this wouldn't be good. In such a small market and platform, we couldn't afford to have things split up between rivals Amiga versions.

DR: We are buying intellectual rights and we will go to court to protect them. Keeping people from making unsanctioned Amiga variants is part of that.


Q: from Greg Scott of National Amiga (Canadian Mail Order Co.):

I'm scared that the price on these machines will not come down. I can't sell them at those prices.

DR: I don't know what the pricing thing is. We are aware of this and know we will have to do something with it and are looking into our options.


Q: What about the RISC chip for the Amiga?

DR: No work has been done. There's been lots of talk, with Motorola and others. No decisions have been made. No one wants to make and deals with anyone until the ownership of the Amiga is finally settled.

JC: The engineers have taken some flexibility in this decision of RISC chips. Things have changed in the last year affecting the prior Motorola PowerPC decision and the engineers want to make sure they choose the best solution.

DL: Keep in mind, things have changed in the computer world - IBM was saying that OS/2 was going to come out on the PowerPC's and they didn't. Apple is going down faster than the Amiga.

JC: We know something has to be decided fast.

DR: We have been in discussions with people including Motorola. We know we are going to RISC, the rest is a technical discussion for the engineers. What kind of support will the chip company provide? How much help will they provide?

DL: There's a lot of work to be done. There has to be a lot of software work done. It is more than porting the Exec and emulation doesn't work (as Apple found). There has to be a lot of work done to the operating system to bring it closer to other platforms.


Q: We have to keep the same software, is it possible?

DL: The operating system is showing a lot of age. Developers need to get the kind of support from the OS that other OS's provide. There is a lot of work, a lot of architectural issues, a lot of API changes that have to be made. It is not easy, it can't be done by the third parties, etc.

BF (Bob Fisher of Nova Design - in the audience): When all the graphics cards came and we were faced with having to rewrite everything we did for every card. THANK YOU Cybergraphics - they saved us a lot of time and money, by letting us write for one standard. This is what we need.

VIScorp has to communicate with developers. They have to give the developers info on what's going on in time to get things done. Let us work with everything as soon as possible.

JC: Whatever we do. We will let everyone know what we do and there will be no surprises - like with the Walker demo at CeBit.


Q: "Don't make a war with Phase5. Take 2 years, do it right. In the meantime, give us 060's cheap."

DR: We are putting out 060 boards for 4000's (maybe 3000's) in the Fall. I don't know how much they will cost. I think it will be a bit more than our cost.

Phase 5 cannot re-engineer the Amiga without violating the patents and licenses that we are buying. We will protect our rights. They also don't have Motorola's support for their project yet.


Q: "Work on the RISC machines and add an 060 and 10 MBs of RAM for 1200s at low prices. Everyone will buy and average users will be very happy."

DR: It's something to think about. I'm curious, do we really need an interim box? Would an 060 box do it?


Q: Any plans for a super computer?

DR: Yeah, that's our coke machine


Q: What did the management say was the reason Sun dropped the deal with Commodore or Amiga based workstations?

DL: They said they didn't want to do it?


Q: What can you tell us about the BeBox?

JC: They flew me out to see it. They got a lot of press and recognition, proof that someone thought a third computer was a real possibility. The Be opened a door that the Amiga rebirth could walk through.

Half their company says "we should be selling computers" and the other half is saying "we should be selling software and OS's". They have a lot of infighting.

DR: We talked with Jean-Louis Gasse and they are in a mess. They don't know what they want to do. They thought we were going to let the Amiga die and they wanted to "cream skim the Amiga users and developer base". Since we bought the Amiga and talked with them, their hopes have dimmed.

The multi-processing play is not far from what our engineering team has been thinking about. Carl has thought about it and has a board supporting this in mind. Please wait for more on this.


Closing Comments

DR: We know you have gone through great adversity. With your strength, you saved he Amiga. We came to indicate that we are going to bring the Amiga back to the North American market.

We also want to make it so Amiga users can just press a button on their Amigas and reach the community, get hundreds of answers to questions and access to developers and so.


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