Amiga's new savior: Bill McEwen

In rural Washington state, Amiga's latest rescue effort has set up shop. But can it finally pull the Amiga out of obscurity?
Written by Robert Lemos, Contributor
East of Seattle, at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, the Amiga computer system with half a million loyal followers has found its latest would-be savior.

"This is about unification and creating something that developers can build upon," said Bill McEwen, the 37-year-old president and CEO of the newly formed Amiga Inc., from his home set amongst 200-foot-tall trees of Maple Valley, Wash.

On Saturday at the Consumer Electronics Show, McEwen will make his first announcement regarding the group's plans for the Amiga with a major partner.

Last week, McEwen and his Amino Development Corp. paid an undisclosed amount to Gateway Inc. (NYSE: GTW) for the Amiga trademark, technology and a license to the Amiga patents. While the amount of $5 million has been bandied about in press reports, the horse-riding Amiga chief said that figure misses the mark.

McEwen and his 16-employee startup plan to continue to develop and support the latest version of the Amiga OS. Currently, he estimates that the platform still has anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 devoted users -- most of whom are in Europe, with Germany being the crown jewel.

He has received thousands of e-mails from developers and users offering free code and technical assistance, he said.

While McEwen's group has a broad strategy for the system, he stressed that users shouldn't expect a roadmap for the Amiga operating system anytime soon.

"We want to parcel out our information a bit at a time. At this point, we want to avoid creating too-high expectations," he said.

He bought an Amiga in 1998, and hasn't gone back to other computers since. "My first response was the Amiga was dead," he said. "I was shocked to learn there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of users out there."

In the future, McEwen plans to morph the Amiga operating system into what he believes it does best: Remove the technological confusion from a device aimed at enhancing creativity.

Make it simple
That's something that Windows and even the Mac have done a poor job at, he argued. "The difference between our visions: We truly want to enable and empower the home and home business," said McEwen. "My vision is a scalable OS in the home."

McEwen also realizes the Amiga has to carve out a niche for itself quickly. Most computers are powered by Windows, the Mac OS and Linux. Meanwhile, start-ups such as Be Inc. are targeting the emerging market for so-called information appliances.

"We have no time at all to do this," he said. "That's what originally prompted me to buy Amiga -- Gateway was just taking too long."

Eschewing Silicon Valley, the company may move from Maple Valley to nearby Issaquah.

But for Amiga users, any home would be welcome.

Editorial standards