D'oh! Amiga scraps PC plan

Company to focus on licensing its software rather than on making a multimedia machine, leaving its longsuffering fans heartbroken once more.

Users of the Amiga PC -- the computer industry's equivalent of the perennially disappointed Manchester City fans -- have again seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Amiga, a unit of Gateway, notified its customers via a murky announcement on the Amiga Web site that it is changing its strategy yet again, and will not bring to market a much-anticipated multimedia computer. The company said it wants to focus on licensing the Amiga operating system software to makers of Internet appliances and other devices. The multimedia computer concept could live on if a hardware partner decided to make the machine abandoned by Amiga.

Amiga's loyal enthusiasts were quick to comment -- posting retorts on newsgroups such as comp.sys.amiga.advocacy and comp.sys.amiga.misc. "Amiga is like a Zombie," said one poster in response. "Commodore killed it, Escom killed it... and Gateway killed it. Still, it shambles on."

Amiga's new president, Tom Schmidt, made the announcement in his Executive Update column published on Amiga's site. He thanked Amiga users again for sticking with the platform. "You have 'hung in there' through a number of upheavals over the past years, and through several false starts on next-generation Amiga platforms. You deserve better," Schmidt said.

Then he hit them with the bad news. "As you know, we announced in July that we were pursuing the development of a 'multimedia convergence computer' that would serve as the next-generation Amiga desktop computer. After the change in management at Amiga, we reviewed all our product plans.

To be honest, the ability for us to deliver the MCC (multimedia computer) was unrealistic," he said. "We realise that this does not satisfy the desire of the Amiga community for a next-generation Amiga."

Amiga will instead seek partnerships with hardware vendors. Schmidt's idea, he said, is to collaborate with -- rather than compete against -- PC makers. The move maintains, somewhat, the spirit of former president Jim Collas' plans.

Collas said that Amiga's operating environment and reference specifications for hardware would be offered to a number of OEMs, including Gateway. The multimedia computer to be produced by the company, he said, was to be viewed as a demonstration of the technologies possible with Amiga software, he told ZDNet. "We are open to the possibility of licensing the MCC (multimedia computer) product specification and design that is now on the shelf to companies that are interested in further developing the Amiga desktop computer product line," Schmidt said.

The idea of running Amiga's operating environment on "Wintel", however, has been generally unpalatable, Amiga fans said. Instead, Amiga users are hopeful that a recently formed consortium called the Phoenix Platform Consortium will bring an open-standards-based hardware platform for the Amiga Operating Environment.

Amiga will "Zombie" on, Schmidt told users in his letter. "The Internet appliance software model that we are putting together will open up an exciting new era of software development that we think will be very interesting to the type of innovative thinkers who were drawn to the Amiga computer in years past," Schmidt said.