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Gateway 'could have had it all'

Gateway Inc. may have big plans for Linux-based Internetappliances.

Gateway Inc. may have big plans for Linux-based Internet appliances. But Amiga Inc. -- the company Gateway bought in 1997 and subsequently sold off last year -- has aspirations and agreements of its own to bring Linux to "Amigans."

"We're doing exactly what Gateway said they'd do with us," said Bill McEwen, president and CEO of the Snoqualmie, Wash.-based U.S. arm of Amiga. "Gateway could have had it all."

The company wants to make sure Amiga's interface can run on Corel's Linux products as well as it runs on Red Hat's. And Sun is working with Amiga partner Tao-Group to provide a Java virtual machine that is optimized for the Amiga platform.

Amiga claims it has more than 117 applications -- many of them games -- from a variety of partners that are ready to roll out in conjunction with new Amiga systems. McEwen said the first Amiga-on-Linux developer platforms will be available soon, but declined to say when commercial systems might become available from OEMs. Sources said the new Amiga systems could hit the streets as early as this summer.

Assembling the Amiga faithful
At Amiga's Amiga2000 developers' conference in St. Louis over the weekend, the company gave a sneak peak at some of its forthcoming interface technology. McEwen called the Amiga interface a "multimedia RTOS (real-time operating system)."

"Like (Microsoft's) DirectX is an RTOS for Windows, we are an RTOS for Linux," McEwen explained.

For those who haven't kept up, Amiga isn't a PC vendor any more.

"We are now a software company," McEwen said proudly. "Developers can write once -- the binaries are compatible across a variety of processors," ranging from Intel X86, to the PowerPC, to Motorola 68000. "We are extricating ourselves from the proprietary nature of the chipsets."

Amiga is cutting deals with hardware makers, from cell phone manufacturers and handheld companies to PC makers. These companies will sell Amiga wares through any of the 600 retail stores across the globe that carry Amiga products.

Gateway/AOL trio on tap
There are some similarities between Amiga's soon-to-be-unveiled platform and the Internet appliances jointly being developed by Gateway and America Online. The two companies on Wednesday announced a trio of Internet appliances that are expected to retail under $500. The devices, which will begin shipping by the end of the year, will run the Linux operating system with a new version of AOL service, called Instant AOLfeature Netscape's new Gecko browser/HTML rendering engine.. They will also

"These devices will be full complements to the PC," said Peter Askhin, Gateway's CTO.

The first two Internet appliance devices to ship from AOL will be the countertop appliance and the desktop appliance. The countertop appliance will utilize a LCD touch-screen that allows for quick access to e-mail, schedules and other information.

The desktop appliance will be the most similar to a PC and be equipped with a traditional keyboard. The tablet-sized wireless WebPad is on tap for 2001. The product will allow a user to rove around the house, sending messages without wires. Prototypes shown by AOL and Gateway included a LCD touch-screen and a digital camera. It will also come with a base station and a wireless keyboard. It should weigh in at about three pounds.

AOL and Gateway began their partnership last October, when AOL invested $800 million in the PC maker.