Meet the new Amiga: It's not like the old Amiga

Can the reconstituted company recapture its former glory? If it does, Linux, Java and Jini will loom large

Amiga fans wondering whether their beloved brand will recapture its former glory will need to wait a bit longer for a definitive answer.

No, Amiga is not getting back into the PC business, per se. Instead, the reconstituted company acquired by Gateway Inc. a couple of years ago will supply operating system software and hardware reference specifications to makers of PCs and appliances. Amiga designs will use Linux as well as off-the-shelf components, such as Universal Serial Bus, for connecting peripherals.

But, says Amiga Inc. president Jim Collas, the company won't entirely abandon its multimedia roots. "We're talking about a bunch of devices throughout the house that are part of a seamless, networked environment," he said. "Our main focus is to develop the software for this environment and to develop the hardware guidelines to go with it. The goal is to license the technology."

Amiga will produce a few of its own machines as examples of what can be done with its software. They will include a "multimedia convergence computer" and a wireless tablet computer. The lions' share of devices based on its technology will come from third parties. Amiga will, for example, offer the technology to its parent company Gateway, but Gateway will have to decide whether or not to license it, Collas said.

Still, Collas said, "our strategy is dependent on having very good multimedia performance." That's what people expect from Amiga. In addition to Linux, Java and Jini, Amiga will use technologies that accent those technologies without jacking up the cost of a system, according to Collas. One such technology Amiga plans to evaluate is Sun Microsystems Inc.'s MAJC chip, a processor aimed at use in graphically intense, thin-client or appliance applications.

Along with these kind of components, Amiga is also looking at MIPS and low-cost X86 chips, he said. "Our environment is very portable. You can base an Amiga appliance on just about any CPU," Collas said. Besides catering to a range of CPUs, Amiga's reference specs will use plenty of existing, industry-standard technologies, including the PCI bus; USB; and 802.11 radio frequency technologies, including Bluetooth for wireless networking. Bluetooth is a short range 802.11-based wireless networking technology now in development by Intel Corp., Toshiba Corp. and cell phone makers Nokia Corp. and Ericsson Inc., among others.

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